Skip to main content

Full text of "Letters Of Rainer Maria Rilke 1892 1910"

See other formats


8]<OU 158354 

Gift of 

With the aid of the 



Jitters of 


Jitters of 


1892 I9IO 

translated by 






Copyright, 1945, by 

70 Fifth Avenue, New York u, N. Y. 






NOTES 365 



From Earner Maria Rilke by Lou Andreas-Salome Frontispiece* 

Reproduced from that in the first edition of the Brief e 27O f 

From the collection of Richard von Mises, Cambridge, Mass. 2OO-1 


UNLESS otherwise indicated in the Notes, all these letters have 
been taken from the two editions of the general collection of 
Rilke's Letters, edited by his daughter and son-in-law, Ruth 
Sieber-Rilke and Carl Sieber, and published by Insel-Verlag, 
which differ not greatly yet enough to make them complemen- 

Our thanks go to Richard von Mises, of Harvard University 
and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for his generous 
interest and, help, and to Paul Graham, of Smith College, who 
kindly read much of the text. 

We owe particular gratitude to Herbert Steiner, formerly edi- 
tor of Corona, who has been for us a keen critic in the larger sense, 
giving many patient hours to discussion of difficult passages in 
the translation, and allowing us to draw for guidance in points 
of interpretation upon his knowledge of the background of 
Rilke's life and creative activity. 


MANY of the letters in Rilke's extraordinary correspondence have 
an artistic validity of their own and are to be enjoyed for them- 
selves, even by one unacquainted with his poetry or with his life. 
While the letters in this volume have been chosen principally for 
their intrinsic beauty or wisdom, others have been included be- 
cause they are psychologically revealing in a more personal sense, 
or because, like those of the very young Rilke, they contain a first 
statement of characteristic themes, or because they give the con- 
tinuity that helps to make of the collection a kind of spiritual 
autobiography. To piece together a complete biographical story 
would not have been possible at this time. Rilke made it clear in 
his will that since a part of his creative energy had gone into his 
letters there would be no objection to their being published; but 
many people who were closest to him are still alive and much of 
a personal nature has inevitably been left out of the two editions 
of the Letters, prepared by his daughter and son-in-law, which 
still remain the principal source we have to draw on. 

Both in his life and in his artistic development, 1910, when he 
had finished the Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, offers a logi- 
cal year in which to close this first of two volumes of Rilke's let- 
ters. The period from his seventeenth year until this time em- 
braces all the great experiences of his early adult life, and these, 
save for his friendship with Lou Andreas-Salome which was life- 
long, were rounded out by now or just entering upon a new 
phase. Russia no longer dominated his conscious thinking but 
had become embedded, as he was to put it, in the substructure of 
his life; there are later few letters to his wife, the sculptress Clara 
Westhoff, to whom so many of the present pages are addressed; 
Paris, with which he had wrestled so desperately, had become 
the stern but benevolent guardian of his work; the overwhelm- 
ing impact of Rodin's art and personality had passed over the 
rapids and come down to a quiet stream, and he had made his 
discovery of Cezanne and his paintings. With all this, the springs 


of his own inspiration, while they did not go dry, seemed to 
disappear underground; he became prey to a distressing inner 
restlessness that was to outlast even the war years and not again 
be overcome by the great flow of his creative genius until 1922, 
the year of the Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus. 

These strands of experience wove significant patterns in the 
poet's art. "In reality," he wrote in 1899, "one seeks in every- 
thing new (country or person or thing) only an expression to 
help some personal confession to greater power or maturity. 
All things are there in order that they may become pictures for 
us." So Russia gave him pictures for the Stories of God, the 
Book of Pictures, and the Book of Hours; Paris gave him pic- 
tures (many of them painful) for the Book of Pictures, the third 
part of the Book of Hours, the New Poems, and the Notebooks. 

Only his approach to the pictures changed. "Nature," he had 
written of the time before he met Rodin, "was still a general 
stimulation for me, an evocation, an instrument on whose strings 
my fingers found themselves again; I did not sit before her; I 
let myself be carried away by the soul that went out of me; she 
came over me with her great immense existence, as prophecy 
came over Saul, just that way. I went along with her and saw, 
not Nature, but the faces she inspired in me." Already in his 
contact with the Worpswede painters he had been made aware 
of a different relationship to Nature, "this daily attentiveness, 
alertness, and readiness of the out-turned senses, this thousandfold 
looking and always looking away from oneself . . . this being- 
only-eye," as he noted in his journal. Rodin too believed in look- 
ing, observing, seeing, in drinking things in with his eyes and 
letting them speak for themselves in a word, in objectivity. 
This Rilke set himself to learn in his own field, and the effort in- 
volved in fixing his attention on an external object, in keeping 
the music within him so muted that, as it were, the thing itself 
could speak and be heard, proved to be a rigorous discipline for 
himself and his art. The New Poems, the product of this new 
seeing, are firmer, more plastic than anything he had written 


Rodin gave him more than pictures and more than an under- 
standing of observation plastically rendered. Rodin, through in- 
cessant work, was always in touch with the unconscious sources 
of his creative power. Rilke, subject to spells of inspiration in- 
terrupted by arid periods when he was burdened with the un- 
easiness of living the Cornet was written in a single night, the 
three sections of the Book of Hours in twenty-four, ten, and 
eight days, respectively, in three different years , learned the 
value of this "always working" and tried hard to attain it himself. 
That he never did, his correspondence is there to testify, as well as 
the completing of the Elegies and the coming of the Sonnets, again 
all in a few days' hurricane. His nearest approach to it was per- 
haps between May, 1908, and January, 1910, a time spent almost 
continuously in Paris, when he wrote New Poems //, the 
Requiems, and the Notebooks. 

After the New Poems he was no longer so consciously preoccu- 
pied with seeing. 

Work of sight is done, 

now for some heartwork 

on those pictures within you . . . 

he wrote in a poem called "Turning," in a letter to Lou Andreas- 
Salome. In the Notebooks he rid himself of many fears; for it is a 
book of fear, of the fears of his childhood, of great cities, of 
loneliness, of death, of love, of losing himself. And in 1910, the 
ordeal of that writing over, he was able to declare that "almost 
all songs are possible." 

Letters were to Rilke at once a means of communication and 
a channel for artistic expression. Like Donne, he found that 

. . . more than kisses, letters mingle Soules; 

For thus friends absent speake. This ease controules 

The tediousness of my life: But for these 

I could ideate nothing, which could please, 

But I should wither in one day, and passe 

To 'a botde'of Hay, that am a locke of Grasse. 


To those who knew him his presence and conversation were un- 
forgettable, but he himself was easily exhausted by personal con- 
tacts. His aloofness, his constant insistence upon solitude should 
not mislead one into believing that he was by nature cold or in- 
different; he was, on the contrary, too responsive for his own 
peace of mind. The letters may fail to give the whole picture of 
his personality, in that the lighter side the humor of which all 
his friends speak, the courtesy that sometimes hid a cutting wit 
is not in evidence. But they are a monument not only to his 
capacity for friendship but also to his great need of imparting the 
life within him to those he loved. 

He took pains with his letters, not only with their content but 
with their appearance as well. The pages are exquisitely neat, for 
he wrote naturally in a regular, elegant, calligraphic hand. Often 
he would patiently recopy an entire page rather than mar it 
by a change of word or phrase; and if he regarded a letter as 
important, he would copy it down for his own reference before 
sending it. 

Rilke must have derived from letter-writing some of the same 
satisfaction that came from his work. In the Requiem for Count 
Kalckreuth he speaks of fate passing into verses and not return- 
ing, implying that once an experience has been poured into an 
artistic mold, the weight and pain of it leave the artist. Letters 
provided a release of the same sort, a means of easing the pressure 
of life; but the release would have been only partial, the expres- 
sion provisional. To find out why this was so would take one to 
the heart of that strange necessity that inhabits an artist's soul. 
Perhaps in letters his experiences had not finally come to rest, 
had not passed totally into the picture beyond, into the pure 
image they became in verse. Perhaps fate could still return to 
him from the letters. 

Particularly when inspiration lagged he turned to his corre- 
spondence, for in it he "could ideate" much that pressed for re- 
lease. It became his handicraft, the tool that could keep him at 
work in constant preparation for the creative moments. One 
feels he could scarcely have survived the unproductive periods 


without it. The best of the letters, indeed, were written in these 

Revealing his mind as they do, it is natural that the letters 
should illuminate and enrich one's interpretation of Rilke's 
poetry. The interplay between the two is active at almost every 
level of experience. Over and over again, as our Notes attempt 
in some measure to indicate, the letters tell of some incident, of 
something seen or read, which became also the subject of a 
poem. The fresh transcript of the experience, or his revival of 
the memory, enhances one's appreciation of the heightened and 
universalized reality of the verse. For the Notebooks, further- 
more, he seems to have used the letters as a kind of proving ground, 
particularly" those to Lou Andreas-Salome about Paris, which 
startlingly resemble certain pages of the book. 

Since the drama of Rilke's life was largely an inner one, it 
lent itself well to this kind of record. For the letters reflect the 
emotional and spiritual struggles he underwent, and a compre- 
hension of them often gives a key to the poems which are, in a 
sense, the resolution of those tensions. In them one constantly 
meets with Rilke's exceedingly individual ideas those ideas on 
love, on death, on art that are familiar from the poetry and be- 
comes acquainted with the soil from which they grew. 

Rilke has said many profound things about living, yet the 
words of Euripides come to mind: 

Wisdom is full of pity, and thereby 

men pay for too much wisdom with much pain. 

The letters show that the springs of Rilke's wisdom lay not in 
cool detachment but in deep anguish of spirit. They reveal the 
tangled root as well as the tranquil flower, and they are evi- 
dence that his words are spoken in the deepest humility. "Who 
speaks of victory? To endure is everything." 

The Jitters 

C ' 3 

To Franz Keim i 5 b/I Wassergasse, Prague 


I deem it my duty, upon receipt of your friendly lines, to 
thank you immediately for your great kindness. I prize your 
opinion most highly and learn it the more gladly as it is a good 
one. So with all my heart, thanks for your kind letter. 

Today \ must only add the request that you will always keep 
the good will and the kind friendliness you have shown me, for 
more distant days as well. 

Severe with myself, as you, most esteemed master, advise, I 
want always to be and to remain. A firm, beautiful, and shining 
goal before my eyes, striving toward that goal; not on the road 
along which ordinary people senselessly stagger, not on the 
broad-trodden highway of the millions! to press upward on 
roads one has oneself laid, to the one unclouded light on high! 
For my view is: 

A genius, so noble observers of men suppose, 

Is often doomed to ruin. 

No! If the period creates no great men for itself, 

Then the man will create himself a great period! . . . 


To Valery David-Rhonfeld December 4, 1894 

before midnight 

Vally mine, mine, mine! 

Over there in the dining room my aunt is sitting at her eve- 
ning meal; I renounced my share of supper, withdrew from the 
to me dismal atmosphere into my room and there, not from 
need, rather to have a certain taste frankly, from a mortal crav- 
ing for sweets ate three pieces of the cake in question. My heart 


was oppressed and out of sorts without my knowing the reason 
at first. Then, as I sat across from Tame G. in the dining room 
for a few minutes, it became evident to me that the abrupt ex- 
change of the light-flooded sphere of your presence for the 
dreary, humdrum atmosphere of my so infinitely remote rela- 
tives was the weighty cause of that bad mood. But that has 
vanished now. My heart is light and my mind is clear. Your 
letter, your dear letter, has banished the clouds. It is bright. The 
heaven of our love shines out of the quiet flooding of my soul. 
Sweet sensations murmur softly like strong reeds, and longing 
like a rustling tree in blossom spreads out its arms within me. 
I don't know how often I have read your lines. I don't know 
what so overwhelms me. Is it alone the consciousness that they 
come from you, or is it rather the aroma of a deep, warm feel- 
ing that is wafting toward me, that intoxicates me. Vally, your 
dear words have poured a holy magic into my soul, yes, in it 
glimmers that worshipful, trembling earnestness that must have 
pervaded the hearts of the oracle-questioning Greeks when they 
awaited at the temple gate, half in hope, half in trepidation, the 
answer of the mysterious god. For to me too it is as though my 
eyes were seeing farther than usual as though the dimming walls 
of the cramped little room were betaking themselves away , as 
though today I were permitted to take a look into the future! But 
before I look out into that colorful rolling sea of mists, let me 
first of all gaze within myself. In this night, about half past eleven, 
it will be exactly nineteen years that I have been alive. You know 
the lack-luster story of my frustrated childhood and you know 
those persons who are to blame for my being able to note nothing 
or little that is joyous in those days of growth. You know that for 
the greater part of the day I was entrusted to a serving-girl, im- 
moral and of few scruples, and that the woman whose first and 
most immediate care I should have been loved me only when it 
came to bringing me out in a new little dress before a few mar- 
veling acquaintances. You know how I acquitted myself with 
varying success at the Primary School of the Piarists and a 
stupid boy in the main avenue of the Baumgarten decided my 

own fate with a childish word. If in my father's house love was 
shown me with both care and concern only by my papa, I was 
in general thrown entirely upon my own resources and for the 
most part could not share with anyone my little sufferings and 
blisses, in the new phase of my young life I was very well ac- 
quainted with that cowardly, undisguised heartlessness which 
does not shrink even from being brutal out of pure bestial lust 
for murder (the expression is not too strong). My heart, apart 
from this inclined through the loneliness of my earliest days to 
quiet endurance and courageous resignation, trembled at the sight 
of these injustices, and bore with a submission not proper to its 
years the torments of that treatment. Yes, bore them . You often 
call me idealistic. Dearest Vally, if I am still that now, think what 
pure feeling must have shone in that little soul which, always lost 
in itself, was averse even to the simple, gay, innocent games of 
rowdy boys in the Primary School, and consider further, my love, 
how frightfully the onslaught of such wild, undeserved crudities 
must have echoed in the undefiled sanctuary of that childish spirit. 
What I suffered in those days may be compared to the worst pain 
in the world, although I was a child, or rather because I was one. 
Because neither the strength of resistance nor the fullness of en- 
lightened reason were mine, with which to recognize in it com- 
mon knavishness and nothing more. I endured blows without ever 
having returned a blow or so much as repaying it with an angry 
word, I suffered and bore. I believed the will of an infinite, un- 
alterable destiny required of me this heroic endurance had I 
known, recognized, that instead of this inevitable fate it was only 

the whim of a pitiful, pleasure-seeking creature (Mother). 

How was I to suspect that! By the same necessity by which I 
saw day yield to night, I believed my torments to exist and took 
a certain pride in bearing them. In my childish mind I believed 
myself through my patience near to the virtues of Jesus Christ, 
and once when I received a hard blow in the face, so that my 
knees shook, I said to my unjust assailant in a quiet voice I still 
hear it today : "I suffer it because Christ suffered it, silently and 
without complaint, and while you were hitting me, I prayed my 


good God to forgive you." For a while the pitiable coward stood 
there, dumb and motionless, then he broke out into the derisive 
laughter with which all to whom he imparted my outcry of 
desperation chimed in howling. And I always fled back then into 
the farthest window niche, bit back my tears which would then 
break out violent and hot only in the the night, when the regular 
breathing of the boys sounded through the wide dormitory. And 
it was in the very night in which I was arriving at I don't know 
which anniversary of my birth that I knejt on my bed and with 
clasped hands prayed for death. A sickness at that time would 
have appeared to me a sure sign of response, only it didn't come. 
To compensate, there developed at that time the urge to write, 
which even in its childish beginnings provided me consolation. 
"Maritana," a tale of a heroically courageous maiden whose char- 
acter resembled that of Jeanne d'Arc was, after several poems I 
no longer remember, the first work of any size. "The war horse 
rears and the trumpets sound." That was the end of a fiery mono- 
logue from this remarkable fantasy. That that period was filled 
above all with religious songs, which thanks to Providence have 
all been lost, needs no confirmation in view of the above-men- 
tioned soulful frame of mind. Isn't that so? You also know how 
furthermore it became ever clearer to me that to remain in the 
hated military school was no longer possible and, only too often 
already, have I told you of the years of hesitation and the final 
development of the decision. During this time, which for the 
most part I spent in the sickroom more spiritually exhausted than 
physically ill, my poetic attempts developed greater clarity and 
independence, and I mention especially the two thoughts, "Satan 
on the Ruins of Rome" and "Exorcism," with joyful recollection. 
So in these troubled days for the first rime the often stifled urge 
for consolation shot up freely; simultaneously, however, my mind 
growing older, my heart growing lighter, felt the chilling empti- 
ness of isolation. After all, it had never, never yet met with 
friendly response, let alone love, and yet seemed to be demanding 
love. Once more I became deeply attached to a comrade, by the 
name of Fried. This time my heart should not go empty away. 


There developed a truly brotherly affection based on mutual 
sympathy, and with kiss and handclasp we sealed a bond for life. 
As children do. We understood each other well, and I blossomed 
out in the knowledge that the scarcely varied events of my soul 
were sounding and ringing on in the like-tuned soul of my friend. 
I was jealous, as he was of me; he admired my poetic thoughts 
and I begged him to try his hand too, and heartily rejoiced in the 
timid success of his stories. Fried's grandmother, for whom he 
had a tremendous admiration, died suddenly, he went to her 
funeral, and I spent two tearful nights tortured by worry, know- 
ing my beloved friend far away. He returned at last, longingly 
awaited by me and was another. Later I learned that fellow pu- 
pils had dragged our pure bond into the mud and besides this 
Fried had received orders from higher up not to associate so much 
with the f ooL After that my heart never became attached to any- 
one again. But even the friend who had so easily fallen away I did 
not shun and spoke officially with him, without ever reproaching 
him, but I did reject the offer of reconciliation he made me once 
more, without pride, but with earnest firmness; and my heart went 
on being orphaned. It seems perhaps to be the confession of a 
weakling. Yet I shall never be ashamed that my heart was empty 
before I found you, Vally, and leave the shame to those who had 
scorned to earn a place in it. Then came the time that you know 
(Linz Commercial School), whose bitter disillusionments and 
errors are buried in your forgiveness. Then came the fourth big 
division of my existence: the period of study. I was already pre- 
pared to renounce my scholastic future, weary of the everlasting, 
unsuccessful and aimless work, when I met you, beloved, dearest 
Vally, when you strengthened, healed, comforted me and gave 
me life, existence, hope, and future. On December 4th of the year 
in which I entered upon my high-school career in Schonfeld, I 
renounced this plan and, exhausted with work, wanted to fling 
myself into the arms of destiny's stream, to go under or to land 
somewhere or other. But that today I am not straying through 
the world a purposeless wanderer, but rather as a confident fighter 
my breast full of love, gratitude, and hope am striding toward 


our happiness, our union, could I thank anyone but you for that, 
my divine Vally? My whole previous life seems to me a road 
to you, like a long unlighted journey at the end of which my re- 
ward is to strive toward you and to know you will be all mine in 
the near future. And now, as that spirit, that oracular courage 
wafting from your letter proclaims: this future is ours. Is ours 
under the protection of our dear, loved dead, of your good grand- 
mama, and under the shielding power of our own strength and 
the steadfastness of our love. Let us still, dearest heart, with the 
help of your noble grandmama, whom I so honor and esteem, sur- 
vive well this year's troubles as also the extraordinary things of 
next year then will come, if all goes off according to plan and 
hope, the university years which grant us much more time still 
and will besides lead us so blissfully near to our happiness. Then 
let us found the longed-for household on whose solid foundation 
our inner contentment is to rest as on a strong substructure. 
Then let us create, industrious in the practice of our arts, helping 
each other, taking counsel like two sturdy, blissful human beings 
who over their love and their work forget the world and pity or 
despise people. Then in six years, in the first year of the twenti- 
eth century, probably in the first or second of our official en- 
gagement, you will get, my much beloved panicka, another letter 
like this which will contain a little backward glance over the 
worse rimes surmounted and a prophecy for better ones! 

Eleven o'clock at night it has already struck out there, and 
before I complete and read over this letter, nineteen years will 
certainly be full. When I look briefly over them once more, 
the brightest point is that you stepped into my orbit and for life, 
as long as it beats, have given my poor heart, a stranger to love, 
the most worthy object of adoring, grateful devotion in your- 


To Dr. Bauschinger i 5 b/I Wassergasse, Prague 

December 2, 1895 

... Is it not strange that almost all great philosophers and 
psychologists have always devoted their attention to the earth 
and to the earth only? Would it not be more sublime to turn one's 
eyes away from the little clod and to consider not a tiny grain 
of dust in the universe but the universe itself? Think, dear sir, 
how small and insignificant earthly hardships would appear the 
moment our earth had to shrivel up to the tiniest, whirling, will- 
less little part of an endless world! And how man would have 
to grow on his "little earth"! 

Strange. Every bird that makes its dwelling under the shelter 
of the roof beams first investigates the place it has chosen and 
over which a part of its diminutive life is now to trickle away. 
And man is quite content to know the earth halfway and scantily, 
and lets the faraway worlds above wander and roam. Does it not 
seem as if we were very deep down still, since our gaze clings so 
persistently to the ground? Could not that be the only true 
philosophy which claws its strong roots into infinity instead of 
into the slime of the earth? ! . . . 

To Bodo Wildberg 

(H. von Dickinson-Wildberg) March 7, 1896 

. . . Thiel develops his strictly German patriotic idea as op- 
posed to my world enthusiasm, and it seems to me the story of 
our two philosophies of life is that of the two parallel lines that 
cross at infinity! For in the end they are running toward the same 
goal. Only Thiel thinks that this goal will be reached by a tight 
closing together of each nation and hostile severing of that na- 
tion from the outside world, because this eternal battling and 
worrying wakens and exercises their powers, while I am of the 
opinion that this natural and paltry advance takes place of itself 

and needs at most the help of workers but not the power of kings. 
Those who tower clear-eyed above the tumult should not look 
toward the way stations where our weary successors will rest, 
but should marvel freely and proudly at the golden sun-goal 
beyond, which late grandchildren will enjoy in full radiance. 
Even Moses was permitted to gaze on the Promised Land and 
before his failing eyes lay its blossoming splendor and not the 
thousandfold danger through which his people had to wrestle 
its way! 

Hence Thiel seems not to want to dedicate his powers for the 
present to the "League of Genuine Moderns," which is much 
to be deplored. I like the idea very well, and I should be glad if 
it would take shape in reality. In that case one should not beat 
the advertising drum, one would have to search quietly for like- 
minded and like-feeling people . . . wouldn't one? . . . 

15 3 

To Bodo Wildberg 

(H. von Dickinson-Wild berg) i$b/l Wassergasse, Prague II 


. . . Your opinion of Thiel's letter which, for lack of time, I 
still haven't answered certainly agrees more or less with mine. 
A league does not, after all, bear the stamp of a perfect herdlike 
similarity among its members, as Thiel seems to suppose. On the 
contrary: the more different its individual components, the more 
full-toned and rich will be the result of their combined sound, if 
only they are tuned to one fundamental tone, that of genuine, 
deep, true feeling for art. One should not confuse league with 
school. While it is the tendency of the latter to narrow the course 
of the creator by certain rigid norms, the league enables each, ac- 
cording to his own peculiarity, to express himself without con- 
cern for petty interests and advantages. . . . 

To Karl Baron Du Frel 8/1 Bliitenstrasse, Munich 

February 16, 1897 

It may be an awkward token of my respect, if I offer you my 
latest book of poems. 

But I can give my feelings no other expression. You are the 
most significant investigator in the domain of hypnotism and 
will pardon an interested layman the following request, which 
is: by what road does one become a worthy initiate? There are 
plenty of pamphlets which deceive and mislead the novice by 
their charlatanish falsehood, and the unpracticed eye does not 
know how to differentiate them from those genuine guides which 
direct one intelligently into the dark lands of clarity and of the 

Apart from the charm of the mysterious, the domains of spirit- 
ualism have for me an important power of attraction because in 
the recognition of the many idle forces and in the subjugation of 
their power I see the great liberation of our remote descendants 
and believe that in particular every artist must struggle through 
the misty fumes of crass materialism to those spiritual intimations 
that build for him the golden bridge into shoreless eternities. 

If I may penetrate into the nature of your science, it will per- 
haps be vouchsafed me sometime to become with word and pen 
one of the adherents of the new faith that towers high above 
church-steeple crosses and shines like the first hint of morning 
on the princeliest peaks. 

Please give me your advice, my dear Baron. What works should 
I go through and where can I (who am not in a position to buy 
them) get hold of them? 

Do not let this be a burden to you; it seems to me that in my 
"Visions of Christ," appearing this year, I shall come a big step 
nearer to your group. . . . 


To Ludivig Ganghofer 8/1 Bliitenstrasse, Munich 

April 1 6, 1897 

. . . Dearest, much honored master, when one has a very dark 
childhood behind one, in which the everyday resembles walking 
in dank cold streets and a holiday is like a resting in some narrow, 
gray, inner court, one becomes diffident. And eveti more diffi- 
dent if, at the age of ten, from these troubled and yet enervated 
days one is deposited in the rough activity of a military institu- 
tion where, above the longing for love that has scarcely come to 
consciousness, an icy, wild duty rages away like a winter storm, 
and where the lonely, helpless heart after unhealthy coddling 
experiences unreasonable brutality. Then comes the crisis: the 
child becomes either indifferent or unhappy. I became the latter. 
A strong disposition toward excessive piety grew to a kind of 
madness under the influence of the spiritual loneliness and the 
coercion of an odious duty hard as fate. The blows I often en- 
dured from mischievous comrades or coarse superiors I felt as 
happiness and went in for the idea of a false martyrdom. The 
continual excitement of this almost ecstatic joy in torment, the 
passing of the hours of recovery in the institution chapel, the 
excruciating sleeplessness of nights frantic with dreams all that 
together was bound finally to exercise a detrimental influence 
upon my resistless growing organism. After an added inflamma- 
tion of the lungs, I was sent for six weeks as "highly nervous" (! ) 
to Salzburg for a salt cure. Had I been allowed to leave then! But 
everybody thought it perfectly natural that, having borne it four 
years, I should remain for the six to come, which would be better, 
in order to become a lieutenant and to provide for myself. 

In the fifth year of my military training (the fifteenth of my 
life) I finally forced my departure. Things didn't get much bet- 
ter. They put me in a commercial school in Linz, where I saw a 
cheerless office future darkening before me. After scarcely a 
year's time, I tore myself away against everyone's will by an act 
of violence and have since been accounted a kind of prodigal son. 

They wanted to try the last resort. Since in both previous in- 
stitutions and in my family it was noticed with scorn and uneasi- 
ness that I "made poems," they wanted to make college possible 
for me. At that time it was my father's brother, who played a 
considerable role in Prague as lawyer and deputy to the assembly 
of Bohemia, who put in a good word for me and with generous 
financial assistance made -possible the costly private study my 
father could never have afforded. For that I thank him far be- 
yond the grave. After three years of serious but joyous work I 
had gone through the entire eight-grade grammar school so well, 
even after the thoroughly defective preparatory training of the 
military school, that in the summer of '95 I passed my entrance 
examination with distinction. Unfortunately my uncle could no 
longer look upon this success . . . and he probably took with 
him under the earth the opinion that I would not amount to 
much. He left no stipulations of any kind in his will save that his 
daughters, my cousins, should allow me to study up to the en- 
trance examination and, under certain circumstances, the uni- 
versity years. 

Now it seems to me that all people do not give alike. And in 
the two years of my university study I have got the feeling rather 
strongly that I am a burdensome duty to the two ladies. Much 
more burdensome to me is the feeling of slavery in such helpless 
dependence at my age when others may already support their 
parents. And then: on this road I have no objective at all. For I 
keep costing more and more money, and if I become a doctor 
and do not want to pine away as a high-school instructor then 
I shall be costing money again until I get some professorship or 
other which, however, I* do not in the least desire. 

With every day it becomes clearer to me that I was right in 
setting myself from the start against the phrase my relatives like: 
Art is something one just cultivates on the side in free hours, 
when one leaves the government office, etc. That to me is a 
fearful sentence. I feel that this is my belief: Whoever does not 
consecrate himself wholly to art with all his wishes and values 
can never reach the highest goal. He is not an artist at all. And 


now it can be no presumption if I confess that I feel myself to be 
an artist, weak and wavering in strength and boldness, yet aware 
of bright goals, and hence to me every creative activity is seri- 
ous, glorious, and true. Not as martyrdom do I regard art but 
as a battle the chosen one has to wage with himself and his en- 
vironment in order to go forward with a pure heart to the greatest 
goal, the one day of celebration, and with full hands to give to all 
successors of the rich reconciliation finally achieved. But that 
needs a whole man! Not a few weary leisure hours. 

I do not know, dearest master, in how far you agree with me 
and whether you are perhaps wisely smiling at the impetuous- 
ness of this youthful resentment; then you will forgive too. 
Now I am free of the university. The time has come. Dear sir, 
you yourself once offered to give me help if I needed it. Now 
then: today I have come to you. 

I would like through agreement with a publisher or some 
steady engagement on a newspaper to earn enough to be able 
to live soon and well on my own. I would like to spare my cousins 
their wanting-to-give-gladly and, by grateful renunciation of 
my monthly allowance, to enable my dear father, who is some- 
what ailing, to allow more for his health. I cannot work in peace 
before that happens. I myself, of course, need little. . . . 

Full of profoundest trust I lay this whole avowal in your 
kind hands and sincerely beg you: counsel me, help me. . . . 
Be assured that I shall never and nowhere bring discredit upon 
your recommendation . . . and to you all the gratitude I can 
prove to you through deeds for a lifetime. 


To Frieda von Billow Munich 

August 13, 1897 

. . . We are reading in the most various books on Italian 
Renaissance art and seeking an opportunity to get as independent 
a judgment as possible on this interesting period. From the early 
golden age of Florence we want to push forward by degrees to 

_ 29 

the Caraccis. As a matter of fact, I am especially fascinated by 
one Florentine master of the quattrocento Sandro Botticelli, 
whom I now want to go into somewhat more deeply and per- 
sonally. His Madonnas with their weary sadness, their great 
eyes asking for release and fulfillment, those women who dread 
growing old without a holy youth, stand at the heart of the long- 
ing of our time. I do not know whether you had the opportunity 
to see Botticelli and how you stand toward his works. It is inter- 
esting in any case to meet this man in a period when the Bible 
and the holy legends constituted the subject matter for all paint- 
ers and each was seeking to do as much justice as possible to the 
religious motif, to narrate the legendary version without wanting 
anything for himself in so doing save at most the solution of 
some problem of color technique or of pure form; along comes 
Sandro Botticelli and in his naive longing for God perceives that 
the Madonna, in her deep sympathy ennobled and sanctified by 
her strange motherhood, can quite well become the herald of his 
own sadness and of his weariness. And in fact all his Madonnas 
look as if they were still under the spell of a melancholy story, 
quite bare of hope, that Sandro has been telling them; but they 
are utterly tender in feeling and keep his avowals in confessional 
sanctity and meditate on their obscurities and gaze on much, 
much misery and have nothing but that little playing boy upon 
their laps who wants to become the Redeemer. . . . 

To Adolf Bonz * Im Rheingau, Berlin- Wilmersdorf 

[December] 25, 1897 

. , . I want to speak to you in all sincerity now . . . about the 
poems. You see, my view on this point is purely subjective, and 
it must be and must remain so. It is not my way to write poems 
of epic or lyric style that can stand five to ten years of desk air 
without becoming deathly sick. Short stories and dramas are re- 
sults that do not age for me, poems, which accompany every 
phase of my spiritual longing, are experiences through which I 

ripen. Short stories are chapters, poems are continuations, short 
stories are an appeal to the public, courtings of its favor and inter- 
est, poems are gifts to everyone, presents, bounties-, with a short- 
story book in my hand, I am a petitioner before those who are 
empty, with poems in my heart, I am king of those who feel. A 
king, however, who would tell his subjects in ten years how he 
felt ten years ago, is a sham. Seven sketchbooks full of things I 
am burning to utter await my choice, and they must be said 
either now or never. But because I knew that I would want to 
say them, I have undertaken to mark each lyric period by a book. 
Since the Dreamcroivned period seven sketchbooks have come 
into being and an eighth is begun which seems to me to indicate 
an entirely new stage. So it is my plain duty to settle accounts 
with these ripe riches, that is, to commit what is good in them 
either to the fire or to the book trade. I prefer the latter, for my 
books have had success, that is, they have awakened here a smile, 
there a love, there a longing, and have given me an echo of that 
love, the reflection of that smile and the dream of that longing 
and have thereby made me richer and riper and purer. Please 
understand me, I grow up by them, they are my link with the out- 
side, my compromise with the world. Now I can defend the 
verses as episodes, as little moments of a great becoming, as real, 
deep spring: if ever I have a name, they would be misunderstood 
as final products, as maturities, mistaken for summer. I cannot 
keep my springtime silent in order to give it out some day in sum- 
mer, old and faded, and were I untrue to my resolve, which for 
four years has been fulfilled in Life and Songs, Wild Chicory, 
Offerings to the Lares, Dreamcroivned, all further publication, 
seeming to me a betrayal then, would probably cease too. But I 
am earnestly sworn to persevere, and this whole attitude is so 
bound up with my life that I cannot dismiss it. Quite the con- 
trary, if I ever have a name, that is, have become (and the be- 
coming is much too glorious for me to long for that) , then the 
poems will be entirely superfluous; a selection can then be made, 
a complete edition which will then also have something about it 
of a comprehensive result but then they will be blossoms, 

memories of spring, lovely and warm with the summer that lies 
over their stillness. Until then is further than from today until 
tomorrow. What I am saying today is nothing but the word 
"heart's need" of the other day, a rocket sent into the air, burst- 
ing into these thousand words of my innermost conviction. And 
valued and dear as your advice is to me, you will now not take 
it amiss any more if I do not follow it, but do everything to con- 
secrate a new book of poems, Days of Celebration, to young '98. 
I cannot do otherwise, so help me God. . . . 

C 'O 

To Frieda von Billow Ligowka 35, St. Petersburg 

v May 27 (June 7), 1899 

An intention to write never turns into a letter. A letter must 
happen to one like a surprise, and one may not know where 
in the day there was room for it to come into being. So it is that 
my daily intentions have nothing to do with this fulfillment of 
today. They were concerned with much that I am now saving up 
to tell personally. For the many experiences and impressions are 
still heaped up in me in such disorder and chaos that I do not want 
to touch them. Like a fisherman who comes home late at night, I 
can guess only vaguely at my catch from the burden of the nets 
and must wait for the morrow in order to count it and enjoy it like 
a new discovery. As I think over the immediate future, it seems 
to me it will be in Meiningen that the sun will first rise on my 
wealth. Accordingly you will be able to witness my greater or 
lesser prosperity, and I do well to be silent about it before I can 
show it fully. 

Only this much: I feel my stay in Russia as a strange comple- 
ment to that Florentine spring of whose influence and success I 
have told you. A friendly Providence led me to the next thing, 
further into the depths, into a greater simplicity and toward an 
ingenuousness that is finer. Florence seems to me now like a 
kind of prefiguration of and preparation for Moscow, and I am 
thankful that I was permitted to see Fra Angelico before the beg- 

gars and supplicants of the Iberian Madonna, who all create their 
God with the same kneeling power, again and again, presenting 
him and singling him out with their sorrow and with their joy 
(little indefinite feelings), raising him in the morning with their 
eyelids, and quietly releasing him in the evening when weariness 
breaks the thread of their prayers like rosaries. At bottom one 
seeks in everything new (country or person or thing) only an 
expression that helps some personal confession to greater power 
and maturity. All things are there in order that they may, in 
some sense, become pictures for us. And they do not suffer from 
it, for while they are expressing us more and more clearly, our 
souls close over them in the same measure. And I feel in these days 
that Russian things will give me the names for those most timid 
devoutnesses of my nature which, since my childhood, have been 
longing to enter into my art! . . . 

in the old book of which you so kindly wrote me, there are 
already weak attempts at it. And I believe the goal is worthy of not 
growing weary in the attempt. . . . 

n " 3 

To Frieda von Billow Villa Waldfrieden 

Schmargendorf bei Berlin 
September 14, 1899 

Neither from you nor from our dear house, nor from Troll, 
the black, have I really and truly taken leave: read this letter, 
therefore, as audibly as possible. 

My leave-taking is a great and warm gratitude for everything 
in that homelike house in which so much that was joyous and in- 
dustrious happened to me; in which I was physically so peaceful 
and lived full of a new health and won a new courage through 
definite study. The Bibersbcrg days will be for me the expres- 
sion for a past that will long influence all the happenings and in- 
cidents and successes of my day and that will endure in my feeling 
more and more richly (not through reflection) but because of its 
having been. 


The high park, the quiet, listening house in the midst of its 
broad rustlings, the gentle lamp-lit evenings in the living room 
all of that willingly unites with my dearest thoughts. I still 
recall the first evening when the high, red lilies were so vigilant 
before the Gothic door, and the park grew so deep with the 
night, and the cellar lay there distant and uncertain like an en- 
trance into something new, visible only in premonition; and I 
remember with pleasure how much like a guest of a hundred se- 
crets I felt then, and I rejoice that the feeling of the first evening 
somehow always hung over the known things, so that even now 
I must lay my gratitude before many closed doors. 

But in any case to you, the finder and discoverer of that house, 
I am thankful for many things. Had we come to your house as 
brief visitors for idleness and enjoyment, you would have re- 
ceived more visible signs of our gratitude. But since we came as 
fellow inhabitants, occupied with a life of our own, with the pur- 
pose of completing (as we actually did) something very definite 
in that country summer, we accepted the good in simple, quiet 
enjoyment which also means a form of thanks (the best per- 

Anyway you will be moving down to Meiningen soon now; the 
weather makes the park sad and the otherwise so sunny house 
seem strange: but then go with a good feeling for the things that 
were really dear and common to us in many a deep sense. You will 
have time to take your leave; we were prevented from doing that 
by the sudden necessity of returning home. Greet, therefore, in 
our name too all the rooms and the Bibersberg sun that goes down 
behind the great hall! . . . 

C "3 

To Sofia Nikolaevna Schill Villa Waldfrieden 

Schmargendorf bei Berlin 
March 5, 1900 

. . . The translation of the Chaika is finished. I have enjoyed 
working on it and learned a great deal in the process. A week ago 


Sunday I read the play aloud at Frau Lou's, and now for the first 
time I can look at it clearly and cannot help seeing that its per- 
formance here is not without danger, for many characters are 
brought right to the verge of exaggeration, and it is quite possible 
that the public here would take them for caricatures, although 
they are intended and felt seriously. It is also striking that the 
three acts with the long conversations contain scarcely any 
progress and that during the course of them the characters in- 
volved are lightly sketched in the style of a comedy, in weak sug- 
gestive contours, until in the last act the stirring action appears 
as the closing catastrophe of events in the storms of which persons 
other than those of whom we know something from the first 
three acts must have stood. If one takes the characters in the sense 
of the first act, namely as comedy, they are incapable of setting 
foot in the fourth act; on the other hand, I scarcely believe one 
will be able to come through the hesitant scenes of that first part 
with a serious conception. 

I am saying all this because it seems to me important that we 
should introduce Chekhov in the theater with a sure success for 
which Uncle Vanya (so far as I know its content) is perhaps 
more suited. . . . 

. . . Russian people seem to live fragments of endlessly long 
and powerful life-spans, and even if they linger in them only a 
moment, there still lie over these minutes the dimensions of gi- 
gantic intentions and unhurried developments. . . . And just 
that it is which out of all their lives affects us as so eternal and 
of the future. . . . 

n *3i 

To Sofia Nikolaevna Schill Villa Waldfrieden 

Schmargendorf bei Berlin 
March 16, 1900 

... I simply cannot tell you how much I look forward to see- 
ing Russian pictures, wandering through the Tretiakov Gallery, 
and catching up on everything I had to lose a year ago because 
of haste and strangeness. 

, 35 

That is all so sympathetic and familiar to me, and awakens in 
me as things never have before good feelings of home. Also 
you must not think that the Chaika has become distasteful to me 
or that I have regretted having taken pains with it. I am convinced 
that the impression you describe would be very similar to mine, 
had I had a chance to see the play at the Moscow theater. There 
it certainly had a strong effect, and all its merits were in any case 
brought out by an understanding interpretation, in such a way 
that its defects had no room to make themselves apparent. I en- 
tirely agree with you that Chekhov is in every case a modern 
artist when he has the intention of portraying in artistic form 
the tragedies of the commonplace with their banal breadth, be- 
hind which the great catastrophes develop. To our dramatic 
artists too it is quite clear that all catastrophes have a relatively 
smaller effect amid great events and highly emotional people, 
while they tower terribly high above the commonplace and col- 
lapse over it with endless din. 

But if it is necessary to portray everyday life on the stage 
with all its trivialities and conventional gestures, empty words, 
tedious give-and-take and the stale falsities of daily intercourse, 
all these manifestations on the stage must be differentiated by the 
tempo of their development from the actual examples from which 
they are copied. Just consider: everyday living as it really hap- 
pens counts on one life and gives itself time, everyday living 
on the stage must be completed in one evening. All the proportions 
must be shifted accordingly. The scenes on the stage may under 
no circumstances be as long as the scenes in reality which are 
their prototypes, and the public ought not to receive from the 
stage the feeling of this reality, since this reality is, after all, 
accessible to everyone anyhow. The sensation of tedium, for ex- 
ample, is evoked not by scenes which are actually tedious, but 
only by those highly interesting moments in which the charac- 
teristics of tedium occur in a condensed form: through these 
then is conveyed to the spectator not the feeling of tedium well 
known to him but a superlative of this feeling which excites and 
surprises him. And similarly with all portrayed emotions. As also, 


for example, from a picture, ugliness may not be experienced by 
the beholder as ugliness, but rather as the new expression, wrung 
from beauty, for an indecisiveness of form, for a necessary transi- 
tion to another possibility of beauty as yet unexperienced by us. 
Before the portrait of an ugly man, we ought to have only the 
impression that his features were unfinished, on their way to a 
new unity which we can sense through the disorder of his face. 
And as the artist, through his absorption in the details of this 
face, experienced nothing of its ugliness, so the ordered relation- 
ship of this detail must transfigure the whole in such a way that 
the beholder takes it in with satisfaction and no thought of ugli- 
ness. Artist and beholder behave toward each other in this case 
like two children who tell each other in whispers about an event 
grownups think is sinful. They tell about it, and it is beautiful and 
pure: between them is no knowledge of sin. And that is what I 
have against Chekhov's first three acts, that he gives the everyday 
.at the tempo of the everyday, without artistic recasting, without 
force. The artist who succeeds in showing us the tones of long, 
empty days all in one hour on the stage will evoke in us the suffer- 
ing of a dreary eternity, while the chance section of the every- 
day simply transferred to the stage has merely the effect of the 
original tedious and unpleasant. A great deal may be said about 
it, since this tempo of events is of great importance in every art. 
What makes Resurrection, for example, so wonderful is that in 
an.hour on the march or in prison, we review the outline of many 
days, and involuntarily through the nature of the events men- 
tioned (superfluous ones are never enumerated) feel that we are 
experiencing centuries of human development. Moreover, 
Resurrection is a very significant book, full of artistic values; and 
when one reflects that it did not arise from his putting to use this 
great art of his, but progresses in a constant battle against it, then 
one can measure the superhuman power of this artistic force 
which, despite all resistance on the part of the aged Tolstoy, still 
so wonderfully controls individual parts of the work. We have 
just come to know it from the only complete German (but alas, 


very bad) translation. I shall order the complete London edition 
(Russian) for you and bring it to you with great pleasure. . . . 

[ '4 3 

To Lou Andreas-Salome St. Petersburg, 1900 

Saturday morning 

I have your letter, your dear letter that does me good with every 
word, that touches me as with a wave, so strong and surging, that 
surrounds me as with gardens and builds up heavens about me, 
that makes me able and happy to say to you what struggled 
stupidly with my last difficult letter: that I long for you and 
that it was namelessly dismaying to live these days without any 
news, after that unexpected and quick farewell and among the 
almost hostile impressions of this difficult city, in which you could 
not speak to me out of the distance through any thing at all. So it 
came to that ugly letter of recently which could scarcely find its 
way out of the isolation, out of the unaccustomed and intolerable 
aloneness of my experiences and was only a hurrying, a perplex- 
ity and conf usedness, something that must be alien to you in the 
beauty to which your life has immediately rounded itself out 
again under the new circumstances. 

Now I can scarcely bear it that in the great song around you, in 
which you are finding again little childrens' voices, my voice 
should have been the strange, the only banal one, the voice of 
the world among those holy words and stillnesses of which days 
about you are woven. Wasn't it so? I fear it must have been so. 
What shall I do? Can I drown out the other letter with this one? In 
this one your words echo, the other is built upon your being 
away, of which I learned nothing, and now that I am informed no 
longer has the right to exist ... but does, doesn't it? 

Will you say a word to irce? That in spite of it, everything is as 
you write; that no squirrel has died of it and nothing, nothing has 
darkened under it or even remained in shadow behind it. 

You know, I have often told you of my squirrels that I raised 


in Italy, as a child, and for which I bought long, long chains so 
that their freedom might come to an end only in the very high 
treetops. It was certainly very wrong to force oneself at all as a 
power into their light lives (when they had already grown up, 
that is, and no longer needed me), but it was also a little their in- 
tention to go on reckoning with me too, for they often came run- 
ning after me, so that at the time it seemed to me as if they wanted 
a chain. 

How they will miss you, the good youngsters! And will they 
be mature enough to go without you into wood and world? High 
up in the firs of Rongac their childhood will sometimes occur to 
them, and on a branch that is still rocking from the burden of 
the leap, you will be thought of. And though they are only three 
little squirrels, in whose little eyes you have no room, still some- 
where in them it is so big that you can be in their lives. You dear 

Come back soon, come back as soon as you can leave them. 
Lead them out into the wood, tell them with your voice how 
beautiful it is, and they will be the happiest little squirrels and the 
most beautiful wood. 

Yes, please, be here by Sunday! You won't believe how long 
the days in Petersburg can be. And at that not much goes into 
them. Life here is a continuous being underway, whereby all 
destinations suffer. One walks, walks, rides, rides, and wherever 
one arrives the first impression is that of one's own weariness. 
To add to this, one almost always makes the longest excursions 
for nothing. Nevertheless I already know this much, that we 
still have a few beautiful things to see when you come. In any 
case for two weeks everything I have thought has ended with: 
when you come. 

The moonlight night of Wednesday to Thursday I also love. 
I went along the Neva quite late, by my favorite place, across 
from St. Isaac's Cathedral, where the city is simplest and greatest. 
There I too (and indeed quite unexpectedly) felt peaceful, happy, 
and serious, as now since having your letter. I hasten to send off 
these lines so that what you send me Monday (and you will surely 


send one or two words by your brother? Only a few words, I 
shall understand them all! ) is already an answer to this. Answer 
to the one question: are you happy? I am, behind all that bothers 
me, so fundamentally, so full of trust, so unconquerably happy. 
And thank you for it. Come soon! . . . 

C '*} 

To Sofia Nikohevna Schill Tula 

May 20, 1900 

The lovely hour with you was the last little stone in the gay 
mosaic of our Moscow days. Next day everything was colored by 
the haste of departure, and Moscow, dear as it is to us, paled be- 
fore the anticipation of the many things ahead. We had no idea 
how close our dearest fulfillment was to us. On the train, we 
found Professor Pasternak who was traveling to Odessa, and 
when we spoke to him of our indecision as to whether we should 
after all try to see Tolstoy now, he informed us that there should 
be on the train a good acquaintance of the Tolstoy house, a Mr. 
Bulanshe, who should be apprised of the present whereabouts of 
the Count. And it was actually Mr. Bulanshe who was most kindly 
willing to advise us. We decided to remain in Tula, and to go 
next morning to Lasarevo, and thence by carriage to the estate 
of the Obolenskys at Pirogovo where, in all likelihood, Mr. Bu- 
lanshe thought, the Count must still be. Two days before, Mr, 
Bulanshe had accompanied the Countess to Yasnaia, and so the 
possibility was at any rate good that one of these days he might 
ride to Yasnaia. Therefore Mr. Bulanshe sent a telegram to the 
Countess from Serpukhov inquiring where the Count would be 
on Friday. The answer was to come by telegram to our hotel in 
Tula. We waited for it in vain and went on, as had been agreed, 
early yesterday to Lasarevo, completely at a loss. There we found 
a station employee who informed us that the Count had accom- 
panied Tatiana Lvovna to the station yesterday, and had then 
departed with his luggage for Koslovka. So it became a question 
for us of reaching as quickly as possible (by freight train) a place 


from which Yasnaia was accessible. We drove back to Yasinki, 
hired a carriage there, and raced with breathless bells to the rim 
of the hill on which stand the poor huts of Yasnaia, driven to- 
gether into a village, yet without coherence, like a herd standing 
about sadly on exhausted pastureland. Groups of women and 
children are only sunny, red spots in the even gray covering 
ground, roofs and walls like a very luxuriant kind of moss that has 
been growing over everything undisturbed for centuries. Then 
the hardly discernible street dips down, forever flowing past 
empty places, and its gray streamer glides gently into a green 
valley foamy with treetops, in which two little round towers on 
the left, topped with green cupolas, mark the entrance to the 
old, overgrown park in which lies hidden the simple house of 
Yasnaia Poliana. Before this gate we dismount and go quietly like 
pilgrims up the still woodland road, until the house emerges 
gradually whiter and longer. A servant takes in our cards. And in 
a while we see behind the door in the dusky front room of the 
house the figure of the Count. The eldest son opens the glass door, 
and we are in the vestibule facing the Count, the aged man, to 
whom one always comes like a son, even when one does not want 
to remain under the sway of his fatherliness. He seems to have 
become smaller, more bent, whiter, and his shadowlessly clear 
eyes, as though independent of his aged body, await the strangers 
and deliberately scrutinize them and bless them involuntarily 
with some inexpressible blessing. The Count recognizes Frau Lou 
at once and greets her very cordially. He excuses himself and 
promises to be with us from two o'clock on. We have reached 
our goal, and, minds at ease, we remain behind in the great hall 
in the son's company; with him we roam through the spacious 
wild park and return after two hours to the house. There in the 
front room is the Countess, busy putting away books. Reluctantly, 
with surprise, and inhospitably she turns to us for a moment and 
explains briefly that the Count is unwell. . . . Now it is fortu- 
nate that we can say we have already seen him. That disarms 
the Countess somewhat. She doesn't come in with us, however, 
throws the books about in the front room, and shouts to someone 

in an angry voice: We have only just moved in! ... Then 
while we are waiting in the little room, a young lady arrives too, 
voices are heard, violent weeping, soothing words from the old 
Count who comes in to us, distraught, and excitedly asks a few 
questions, and leaves us again. You can imagine, we stay behind 
in the little room, in great fear of having come at the wrong 
time. But after a while the Count comes in again, this time alert, 
turning his entire attention upon us, encompassing us with his 
great gaze. Just think, Sofia Nikolaevna, he proposes a walk 
through the park. Instead of the general meal, which we had 
dreaded and at most hoped for, he gives us the opportunity of 
being alone with him in the beautiful countryside through which 
he carrieci the heavy thoughts of his great life. He doesn't par- 
ticipate in the meals, because, indisposed again for the last two 
days, he takes almost nothing but cafe au lait, and so this is the 
hour he can easily withdraw from the others in order to lay it in 
our hands like an unexpected gift. We go slowly along the long, 
thickly overgrown paths, in rich conversation which, as formerly, 
receives warmth and animation from the Count. He speaks Rus- 
sian, and when the wind doesn't cover up the words for me, I 
understand every syllable. He has thrust his left hand under his 
wool jacket in his belt, his right rests on the head of his walking 
stick without leaning on it heavily, and he bends down now and 
then to pick some herb, with a gesture as if he wanted to capture 
a flower with the fragrance surrounding it; from his cupped 
hand he drinks in the aroma, and then, as he talks, heedlessly lets 
fall the empty flower into the great profusion of the wild spring, 
which has become no poorer thereby. The talk passes ovei 
many things. But all the words do not pass by in front of them, 
along externals, they penetrate the darkness behind the things* 
And the deep value of each is not its color in the light, but the 
feeling that it comes out of the obscurities and mysteries out of 
which we all live. And every time something not-shared became 
apparent in the tone of the talk, a view opened up somewhere 
on to light backgrounds of deep unity. 
And so the walk was a good walk. Sometimes in the wind the 

figure of the Count grew; his great beard fluttered, but the grave 
face, marked by solitude, remained quiet, as though untouched 
by the storm. 

As soon as we had entered the house, we took leave of the 
Count with a feeling of childlike thankfulness and rich with gifts 
of his being. We did not want to see anyone else on that day. As 
we went back on foot to Koslovka, we enjoyed and understood 
the country of Tula in which wealth and poverty are side by 
side, not like contrasts, but like different, very sisterly words for 
one and the same life, jubilantly and carelessly fulfilling itself 
in a hundred forms. . . . 

n '* 3 

To Clara Westhoff Schmargendorf bei Berlin 

October 18, 1900 

Do you remember, dear Clara Westhoff, the evening in the 
little blue dining room? You told me then about those days that 
piled up before your journey to Paris. 

At your father's wish you had to delay your departure and try 
to model his mother. Your eyes, full of presentiment, already 
caught up in distances and new beauties, had to turn back and 
accustom themselves to the very near face of a grave, dignified, 
old lady, and every day go weary ways over furrows and wrinkles. 
The quiet work subdued your hands, already outstretched, ready 
for all there was to grasp. And instead of changing amid the many 
great chance happenings of a foreign land, you grew, rising by 
the daily work. Instead of your art, thirsty for the friendly 
strangeness of new things, your human feeling and trust un- 
folded in these unexpected days, your love gathered itself to- 
gether and went out to meet the quiet, peaceful face that offered 
itself to you, enigmatically rich, as though it were the counte- 
nance of many, having neither expression, nor head, nor hands. 
As though things sometimes joined together to lift a collective 
face as if it were theirs and hold it before a beholder . . . and 
before a creator! You see, I was so struck then by your humility: 


suddenly your eye, which was already preparing itself for larger 
dimensions, goes about willingly with little, hesitating, hearken- 
ing steps over the many overgrown paths of a long dead experi- 
ence and stands still by all its landmarks reverently and respect- 
fully. And has forgotten the world, and has no world but a face. 
I know exactly everything you said then. The figure of the old 
lady who speaks rarely and reservedly, who hides her hands when 
a gesture of tenderness would move them, and who only with rare 
caresses builds bridges to a few people, bridges that no longer 
exist when she draws back her arm and lies again like an island fan- 
tastically repeated on all sides in the mirror of motionless waters. 
My eyes too were already caught up in the radiance and bound 
to great and deep beauties. Your home was for me, from the first 
moment, more than just a kindly foreign place. Was simply home, 
the first home in which I saw people living (otherwise everyone 
lives abroad, but all homes stand empty . . .) . That struck me so. 
I wanted at first to be a brother beside you all, and your home 
is rich enough to love me too and to uphold me, and you are so 
kind and take me in as a real member of the family, and initiate 
me trustfully into the abundance of your work weeks and holi- 
days. And I am entirely devoted to the great beauty of which I 
am, after all, only an enjoyer (I did not join in the work of con- 
templating this beauty) . . . : So I all but forgot it, the quiet 
face of life, which waits for me and which I must shape with 
humble, serving hands. I was all the time looking out beyond it 
into radiance and greatness and am only now accustoming myself 
again to the near and solemn sternness of the great face which 
must have been shaped by me before I may receive something 
more distant, new. You worked for a month; I shall perhaps have 
to work for years before I may devote myself to something which 
down deep is friendly, and yet is unexpected and full of surprise. 
Much of the mood of those weeks of work, of which you told, is 
in me. For a while now, I have felt myself to be in the presence 
of the stillest hour, but only when I resolved to stay here, to 
study, to make full use of all the means Berlin offers for my plans, 
and merely to serve, then only did I begin to model. I still think 


much and with longing of Worpswede, of the little house in 
which there will be black evenings, day in, day out, and cold lonely 
days ... of our Sundays and of unexpected hours so full of 
unforgettable beauty that one can only bear them with both 
hands, only behind me, my work is already growing in the 
great sea of the background like a wandering wave that will soon 
seize me and envelop me utterly, utterly. . . . 

That is what, above all, I must let happen. You will under- 
stand it, since I began with your little story and yet from the 
first moment have spoken only of myself, as is justifiable in a 
letter which comes to you in my stead. I myself cannot go away 
from the "face/* I am arranging my whole winter to make the 
most of every day, and perhaps as early as January 1901 I shall 
go to Russia again. There all the features of life become clearer 
and strangely simplified for me; there I can more easily work 
ahead, improve, complete. . . . 

I have always known that one of the events which you told me 
about would be especially significant for me . . . now your No- 
vember days of last winter stand almost symbolically over me. 
And if I had not received this wonderfully beautiful picture out 
of your memory and out of your feeling, I should not have 
known 'what I am now living through, and that what I am now 
living through is good. 

It is good, isn't it? 

I am not saying farewell to you. I feel gratefully near to you, 
and it does me good not to have taken leave. . . . Leave-takings 
are a burden on feeling. Distance remains stressed behind them, 
acts and grows and becomes mighty beyond all that is shared, 
which should be spontaneous even between those who are widely 

How beautiful your letter was! It was very full of you and it 
is wonderful that you write as you are. Very few can do that, and 
many who only write never learn it (what a bad word "learning" 
is for it!) as long as they live. And with you writing isn't even 
the main thing. I could readily believe that it is. With your pen 
too, you would create people. 


Before what little figure are you sitting by your warm stove? 
Before the stiffly standing child that you separated from the 
cowering girl? And the boy with the tightly drawn-up knees 
that I like so much, is he all finished? Whenever you write 
of such things, and of everything you want to, you do me good. 

I thank you so much and think of you in connection with 
only nice things. 

(half past one at night) 

To Paula Becker Schmargendorf 

October 18, 1900 

Your letter . . . found me here, and it would still have done 
so after two weeks and even after four weeks; for I cannot begin 
the Worpswede winter about which I was so happy day after 
day. Here it has become clear to me: my studies require me to 
stay here in the neighborhood of the big city, t in communication 
with all the helps and helpers, like one intent on a single pur- 
pose, who is serving. 

You know what these studies, which I have set up beside my 
most personal work, mean to me; the everyday, the enduring, the 
path on which I return from every flight, the life above which 
one can raise oneself only when one has and rules it, the stillness 
and the shore of all my waves and words. To me Russia has really 
become that which your landscape means to you: home and 
heaven. About you, in tangible form, stands all that is yours; 
reality and warmth are about you, with clouds and winds and 
waters all love of life lives toward you and surrounds you with 
sympathy and ennobles the least detail of your everyday life. My 
surroundings are not placed about me. Far away on distant paths I 
have seen the cities in which I dwell, and the gardens that rustle 
over me are many rivers away from me. Churches that stand by 
the Volga and are repeated in the rolling stream in softer white and 
with duller gold on their cupolas, ring out to me morning and 

evening with their great standing bells, and songs that blind men 
and children sing move about me like lost spirits and touch my 
cheeks and my hair. Such is my landscape, dear friend. And I may 
not desire to supplant these surroundings, which are like fragrance 
and sound about me, by a broader reality; for I want indeed to live 
and create in such a way that that which, half memory, half in- 
tuition, surrounds me now, may gradually rhyme itself into 
space and really encircle me, still and sure, like something that 
has existed forever and for which my eyes have only just become 
sufficiently strong. Do you understand that it is an infidelity if I 
behave as though I had found hearth and home already fully real- 
ized elsewhere? As yet I may have no little house, may not yet 
dwell. Wandering and waiting is mine. 

That somewhere there is a home about fine growing people, 
so that one can feel and grasp it with all one's senses, that what 
to me is remote and accessible only with extended senses some- 
where became reality for grateful people, this it was that strongly 
swayed me and so impressed me that I resolved to stay. Every 
home has a warm and good influence, like every mother. Only I 
must seek my mother, mustn't I? ... 

It is an evening hour as I write to you. No great golden one. 
One that is hemmed in on all sides by rain, and I am not yet in 
my own home, which is still being fitted out, but still I have a 
warm feeling, as sometimes in your beautiful twilight that is 
unforgettably dear to me. We haven't taken leave, so really we 
are still together whenever we meet anywhere in related thoughts 
or my gratitude otherwise seeks you out among the dear figures of 
my recent past. . . . 

n *n 

To Clara Westhoff Schmargendorf 

October 23, 1900 

That evening, as we sat together in the little blue dining room, 
we also spoke of other things: In the cottage there would be 
light, a soft, veiled lamp, and I would stand at my stove and pre- 


pare a supper for you: a fine vegetable or cereal dish, and heavy 
honey would gleam on a glass plate, and cold, ivory-pure butter 
would form a gentle contrast to the gaiety of a Russian table- 
cloth. Bread would have had to be there, strong, coarse-grained 
bread and zwieback, and on a long narrow dish somewhat pale 
Westphalian ham, streaked with bands of white fat like an eve- 
ning sky with long-drawn-out clouds. Tea would stand ready for 
the drinking, gold-yellow tea in glasses with silver holders, ex- 
haling a delicate fragrance, that fragrance which blended with the 
Hamburg rose and which would also blend with white carnations 
or fresh pineapple. . . . Great lemons, cut in disks, would sink 
like suns into the golden dusk of the tea, dimly shining through 
it with the radiant flesh of their fruit, and its clear, glassy surface 
would tremble from the sour, rising juices. Red mandarins should 
be there, in which a summer is folded up very small like an Italian 
silk handkerchief in a nutshell. And roses would be about us, tall 
ones, nodding on their stems, and reclining ones, gently raising 
their heads, and the kind that wander from hand to hand, like 
girls in the figure of a dance. So I dreamed. Premature dreams; 
the cottage is empty and cold, and my apartment here too is 
empty and cold: God knows how it is to become habitable. 
But even so I cannot believe that reality is not to achieve some 
relation to what I dreamed. I sent you yesterday a little package 
of a very excellent oat cereal to try. Directions on the package. 
Only it is good to let it cook somewhat longer than the fifteen 
minutes prescribed. Before eating put a piece of butter in it, or 
take applesauce with it. I like best to eat it with butter, day in 
and day out. In fifteen minutes, the whole meal is ready, that is, 
boiling water must already have been made; it is put on hot then, 
and cooks fifteen to twenty minutes. If you send for a patent 
"all purpose" double boiler from a big household-goods store, 
you hardly need to stir it; the danger of burning is very slight 
then. Try it, give me a report. The big California firm has other 
glorious preparations also. I will send the catalogue shortly. 
For the rest, you know that I imagined an industrious day before 
that richly dreamed of supper. Isn't that so? 

C >9l 

To Otto Modersohn Schmargendorf bei Berlin 

October 23, 1900 

. . . when winter comes, I shall have memories, gentler, 
richer, and more splendid than ever. I feel that. As if I had costly 
fabrics in chests that I cannot open because days not yet in order 
stand like heavy vessels on their lids. Sometime there will be 
order, and I shall raise the lids and reach through heavy scent for 
the materials which it is a festival to unfold. 

I do not know now what is woven into these cloths; what 
destinies had to come to pass in what landscapes so that pictures 
should be there for this manifoldness of threads and folds . . . 
but I have the dark feeling of an age of greatness and goodness 
whose days are preserved therein, interwoven and well turned 
to use. 

Dear Herr Modersohn, I have such a beautiful and good time 
behind me, and I turn to all who came so strangely close to me 
in that time, with thanks. I am not trying to say what I am 
thanking for, indeed, to explain that I am saying thank you is 
already too much, is something else altogether. I want to do thanks 
to all of you and to your country and your art. Remember that 
afternoon when you showed me the confidence of which I am 
just a little proud: you showed me the little evening pages, and I 
feel how from each sketch, in black and red, more than reality 
grew out toward me; that being, which only the deepest art is 
able to produce in deep hours, was fulfilled in these sketches be- 
fore which I had the feeling that in each one, veiled by the flight 
of the strokes, was everything one can experience and become in 
that mood. It thrilled me so to hold those brimming little pages 
in my hands, to look into their secret as into creation itself: I was 
like one who steps into many darkening rooms and recognizes 
that there before his slowly accustoming eyes stands everything 
beautiful that he had ever thought up or remembered. So it must 
be for a child that goes in a dream from room to room and in 
each keeps finding its mother again, who apparently has entered 

__ _ 49 

everywhere a moment before it. The child has the comforting 
feeling: she is preceding me, she is everywhere. There is no pic- 
ture without her. So in every page there was that warm and 
eternal quality, that atmosphere which is about young mothers 
in the evening. That most peaceful thing in the world, that one 
thing which is not chance, that moment of eternity about which 
everything we think and do circles like birds about clock 
towers. . . . 

Then I thought: sometime I would like to have hours like these 
pages. Dark and yet more than clear, with rich, not countable 
things and figures around which lovely patience flows. Now I 
know that I am living toward such hours, toward such poems. 
Almost every day in Worpswede brought an experience for me 
I often told you so: but I have only been as pious and reverent as 
before your little pictures two or three other times in my life; 
for it doesn't often happen that what is very great is crowded 
together into a thing that one can hold all in one's hand, in one's 
own powerless hand. As when one finds a little bird that is thirsty. 
One takes it away from the verge of death, and its little heart beats 
increasingly against the warm, trembling hand like the very last 
wave of a gigantic sea whose shore you are. And you know sud- 
denly, with this little creature that is recovering, life is recover- 
ing from death. And you are holding it up. Generations of birds 
and all the woods over which they fly and all the heavens to 
which they will ascend. And is all that so easy? No: you are very 
strong to carry the heaviest in such an hour. . . . 

To Frieda von Billow Schmargendorf 

October 24, 1900 

... in order not to alienate peaceful, sober daily work, I have 
given up in these autumn days a very dear plan. I had rented a 
little house in Worpswede (where I was for five weeks) ... it 
turned out, however, that I would really be too far away from 
all the helpers and helps which my labors need (particularly the 

Russian ones) and would run the danger of losing all touch with 
my laboriously achieved study. 

Added to that is the fact that Worpswede has too strong an 
influence: its colors and people are overwhelmingly big, rich, 
and capable of dominating every other mood. But although my 
stay there momentarily took me away from Russian things, I 
still do not regret it; I am even thinking with some homesickness 
of my little deserted house and of the dear people there to whom 
I must seem faithless somehow. I have lots to tell you. . . . 

To Paula Becker Schmargendorf 

November 5, 1900 

How splendid it has become in my rooms. Just think, dear Paula 
Becker, I had a copper pitcher on my desk, in it dahlias the color 
of old ivory, slightly yellowing dahlias, are standing in just such 
a way that it needed only the fantastic, wonderful leaves of the 
cabbage stuck in with them for a miracle to happen. It has hap- 
pened and is operating. On the bench built onto the book- 
case a tall slender glass with a few branches of dog rose had been 
set, and there the heavy umbels of the mountain-ash berries 
worked in, and fir branches harmonized with the big yellow and 
gold leaves, those great chestnut leaves that are like outspread 
hands of autumn wanting to grasp sunrays. But now, when sun- 
rays no longer walk but have wings, no chestnut leaf catches a 
sunray. Everything in my place (I mean to say with this enu- 
meration) was prepared to receive the autumn with which you 
surprised and presented me. For every bit of your rich autumn 
a place was already destined, predestined by Providence. For the 
chestnut chain too. Only here it doesn't always hang on the wall, 
but I get it sometimes and let it slide through my fingers like a 
rosary (you know those Catholic prayer-chains, don't you?). At 
every bead of those rosaries one must repeat a certain prayer; I 
imitate this pious rule by thinking at every chestnut of something 

nice that has to do with you and Clara Westhoff. Only then it 
turns out there are too few chestnuts. 

These first November days are always Catholic days for me. 
The second day of November is All Souls' Day which, until my 
sixteenth or seventeenth year, wherever I may have been living, 
I always spent in graveyards, by unknown graves often and 
often by the graves of relatives and ancestors, by graves which 
I couldn't explain and upon which I had to meditate in the grow- 
ing winter nights. It was probably then that the thought first 
came to me that every hour we live is an hour of death for some- 
one, and that there are probably even more hours of death than 
hours of the living. Death has a dial with infinitely many figures. 
. . . Fof years now I have visited no more graves on All Souls'. 
These days it is my custom to drive out only to Heinrich von 
Kleist in Wannsee. Late in November he died out there; at a 
time when many shots are falling in the empty wood, there fell 
also the two fateful shots from his weapon. They were hardly 
distinguished from the others, perhaps they were somewhat more 
violent, shorter, more breathless. . . . But in the oppressive air, 
noises all become alike and are dulled by the many soft leaves 
that are sinking everywhere. 

But I see this is no letter for you and not really one for me 
either. I am full of longing, my friend. Farewell! 

To Clara Westhoff Schmargendorf 

Sunday, November 18, 1900 

... I am not ashamed that, as already once before, it is your 
pictures, your words almost, with which I am trying to express 
myself, as if I wanted to present you with your own possessions. 
But so it is, Clara Westhoff, we receive many of our riches only 
when they come to meet us borne by the voice of another; and 
had this winter become as I dreamed it, my daily duty would have 
been to lade my speeches with your possessions and to send my 

sentences to you, like heavy, swaying caravans, to fill all the 
rooms of your soul with the beauties and treasures of your un- 
opened mines and treasure chambers. 

Do you remember . . . (doesn't that appear in each of my 
letters?), do you remember that you spoke of how eagerly you 
experienced that period when for the first time autumn and 
winter were to meet you not in the city, but among the trees 
whose happiness you knew, whose spring and summer rang in 
your earliest memories and were mingled with everything warm 
and dear and tender and with the infinitely blissful melancholies 
of summer evenings and of long, yearning nights of spring. You 
knew just as much of them as of the dear people in your sur- 
roundings, among whom also summer and spring, kindness and 
happiness were dedicated to you and whose influence held 
sway above your growing up and maturing, and whose other ex- 
periences would touch you only by report and rarely like a shot 
in the wood of which superstitious folk tell for a long time. But 
now you were to remain out in the country house that was grow- 
ing lonely and were to see the beloved trees suffer in the rising 
wind, and were to see how the dense park is torn apart before 
the windows and becomes spacious and everywhere, even in very 
deep places, discloses the sky which, with infinite weariness, lets 
itself rain and strikes with heavy drops on the aging leaves that 
are dying in touching humility. And you were to see suffering 
where until now was only rapture and anticipation, and were to 
learn to endure dying in the very place where the heart of life 
had beaten most loudly upon yours. And you were to behave 
like the grownups who all at once may know everything, yes, 
who become grown up just because of the fact that even the dark- 
est and saddest things do not have to be hidden from them, that 
one does not cover up the dead when they enter, nor hide those 
whose faces are sawed and torn by a sharp pain. And you, Clara 
Westhoff , how simply and well you endured, lived through the 
experience, and made it a forward step in your young existence! 
So great was your love that it was able to forgive the great dying, 
and your eye was so sure, even then, that it conceived beauty in 


all the new colors, feelings, and gestures of the earth, and that 
all coming to an end seemed for your feeling only a pretext under 
which Nature wanted to unfold beauties yet unrevealed. Just as 
the eyes of angels rest on a dying child, delighting in the similar 
transfiguration of its half -released little face, so without concern 
you saw in the dying earth the smile and the beauty and the trust 
in eternity. 

Dear Clara Westhoff, if autumnal things or wintry come in 
your life, or a dread like that which ushers in springs: be corn- 
forced: it will be like that time in Oberneuland. You will only 
receive new beauties, the beauties of pain and of greatness, and 
you will enter more richly into the summer days which sound 
their hymns once more behind all troubled heavens. Bless you! 
Amen. . . . 

1*3 3 

To Paula Becker Schmargendorf 

Night, (De . . .) January 24, 1901 

Twenty-fourth of December I was about to write up there! 
That is how I feel, just like that. Now I need not go on wooing 
words and pictures for what I wanted to tell you right away, my 
dear friend: I have had a present, and you were wrong when you 
wrote that at the time you were sending flowers to Worpswede 
you wanted to send me something too although, as you said, 
only something borrowed. But nevertheless in reading your 
journals I couldn't help taking from the shells of your words a 
great deal that I cannot return. It is like strings of pearls breaking. 
The pearls weren't counted, and although one thinks one has 
found them all again, in the most secret corners some remain 
that have rolled away, a silent, if you will illegitimate treasure 
of the room in which the string broke. I am room and culprit 
alike. Seeker of all pearls that were scattered through my im- 
patient seizing of the beautiful ornament, finder and uncon- 
scious concealer of those that were not recovered. What to do? 
Admit it and beg for mercy. Am I doing it? Well, I promise that 


any part of your jewel garland I happen to find here, I shall give 
back, set in the hour in which the discovering light makes the 
rolled-away pearl smile. Set in the joy of the finding. That is 
how it really was in Worpswede too. It seems to be a way of 
mine, to hide pearls and sometime in a good hour to forge a beau- 
tiful ornament in which I can secretly bring back the hidden one, 
lost in the procession of richly clad words that accompany the 
homecomer with a thousand triumphs. I feel Christmassy. From 
all the light too that I have looked at. For in the end all the anx- 
ieties of this book are only like those final anxious moments be- 
fore the doors open to the decorated and gift-filled room which 
the strong radiant tree makes bigger, deeper, and more festive 
than one knows it. And always on the next page the doors are open 
into a Christmas or into a landscape, into something simple, dear, 
big that one may trust. Even in Paris that is so. And that isn't just 
temperament. You have made that out of yourself, or the things 
into whose hands you have put yourself with such quiet and rev- 
erent patience have helped you to it. Life has helped you to life, to 
your life. That that, your life, is something apart, something that 
stands in roots of its own and has its fragrance and its blossom 
that I did know (and I feel as if I had known it a long time al- 
ready) . But now I know more than the one spring in which I see 
you; I know of the earlier springs and of the winters in which they 
were prepared. I see better into the past. Into your childhood that 
is still like yesterday, or again like yesterday. Your glad and joyous 
colors repeat themselves in the later pages, applied to the new 
things and possessions that come to you, as the light of the sun 
repeats itself over every new little child that was born in the 
night. I couldn't help thinking again (as so often and on vari- 
ous occasions) of the Worpswede evenings, when such a glad 
and grateful feeling awoke in me through the certainty with 
which you loved life, took delight in it, and greeted it, without 
becoming confused by it; now I have felt intuitively the rising 
shaft of that certainty with whose quiet, eye-dark blossom I was 
acquainted, and know how gently and slowly, imperiled rather 
than protected by you (Maria Bashkirtseff!), it has grown in 


lovely slenderness, brought up by winds that wished it well. 
"Life": Often, on the margin of your simply animated verse- 
pictures and rhythmic consolations, this word stands, alone, as a 
slender figure stands against the sky, against which you under- 
stand and love things. It speaks to you, it means to you the 
reality toward which all fairy tales (may their effect be never so 
rich and fantastic) really do yearn, as toward the something 
higher, toward the greater miracle that still surpasses them, be- 
cause it happens so simply and in such variety and to human be- 
ings! What a growth from the fairy tale at the end of the first 
book to the reality of the second. And within this reality: how 
much motion, will, warmth, longing and take it in your own 
sense how much reverence! It is as in my Stories of God. God 
appears everywhere; I found him in it, and children would find 
him too! 

And to you, the artist, I also came. Here a regret comes to me: 
in Worpswede I was always at your house in the evening, and 
then here and there in the conversation I did see a sketch (a canal 
with a bridge and sky still stands clearly before my memory), 
until words came from you that I also wanted to see, so that I 
forbade my glances the walls and followed your words and saw 
the vibrations of your silence that seemed to gather about Dante's 
brow above the lily, in its concentrated fragrance, when twi- 
light was falling. So I saw almost nothing of yours; for you your- 
self never showed me anything, and I didn't want to ask you to 
because such things must come from an inner necessity, inde- 
pendent of asking and being asked. And I did think that I would 
be in Worpswede for a long time, long enough to wait for the 
hour in which this suppressed wish (for that matter I did express 
it softly two or three times in the beginning) would be fulfilled. 
Now I suddenly lack much, and who knows whether later in 
life I shall not ask for many things for fear of their passing me 
by without having spoken to me? Lucidly I remember quite ac- 
curately the ring of girls about the big tree. Even before the 
color. But already completely finished as to movement. I can 
recall almost every figure (as movement) in this garland of 


girls which, lightly wound, came out of the hands of joy into 
those of the wind and now draws flickering circles about the big 
quiet trunk. And with this single memory I don't seem poor 
to myself; it is wonderful and good to think that my eyes, un- 
consciously almost, drank in this picture once while you were 
getting tea ready, and that it was perhaps at work in me when 
we spoke later of something dear and of life. 

You haven't lost your "first twenty years," dear and serious 
friend. You have lost nothing that you could ever miss. You didn't 
let yourself be bewildered by the eyes in the veils of the Schlach- 
tensee that look out of the space which is not water and not sky. 
You went home and created. Only a great deal later will you 
feel how much. In your art you will feel it. And someone is going 
to feel it in your life, the person who receives and enlarges it and 
will lift it into new and broader harmonies with his ripe, rich, 
understanding hands. 

Such was my evening tonight. So it ends as though in prayer. 
I thank you for it, today and always. 


To Emanuel von Bodman Westerwede bei Bremen 

August 17, 1901 

I thank you for your letter and for the verses, those marks of 
affectionate and genuine confidence. I can indeed appreciate your 
being able to write to me out of such serious days, and you will 
not feel it importunate if from this I assume the right to impart 
to you something of my own thought about struggles of this 

In a case like this, the thing is (in my own opinion) to draw 
back upon oneself, and not to strive after any other being, not 
to relate the suffering, occasioned by both, to the cause of the 
suffering (which lies so far outside) but to make it fruitful for 
oneself. If you transfer what goes on in your emotion into soli- 


tude and do not bring your vacillating and tremulous feeling into 
the dangerous proximity of magnetic forces, it will, through its 
inherent flexibility, assume of its own accord the position that 
is natural and necessary to it. In any case, it helps to remind one- 
self very often that over everything that exists there are laws 
which never fail to operate, which come rushing, rather, to mani- 
fest and prove themseves upon every stone and upon every 
feather we let fall. 

So all erring consists simply in the failure to recognize the natural 
laws to which we are subject in the given instance, and every 
solution begins with our alertness and concentration, which gently 
draw us into the chain of events and restore to our will its balanc- 
ing counterweights. 

For the rest, I am of the opinion that "marriage" as such does 
not deserve as much emphasis as it has acquired through the con- 
ventional development of its nature. It does not occur to anyone 
to expect a single person to be "happy," but if he marries, peo- 
ple are much surprised if he isn't! (And for that matter it really 
isn't at all important to be happy, whether single or married.) 
Marriage is, in many respects, a simplification of one's way of 
life, and the union naturally combines the forces and wills of two 
young people so that, together, they seem to reach farther into 
the future than before. Only, those are sensations by which one 
cannot live. Above all, marriage is a new task and a new seri- 
ousness, a new challenge to and questioning of the strength and 
generosity of each partner and a great new danger for both. 

It is a question in marriage, to my feeling, not of creating a 
quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all 
boundaries, but rather a good marriage is that in which each ap- 
points the other guardian of his solitude, and shows him this 
confidence, the greatest in his power to bestow. A togetherness 
between two people is an impossibility, and where it seems, never- 
theless, to exist, it is a narrowing, a reciprocal agreement which 
robs either one party or both of his fullest freedom and de- 
velopment. But, once the realization is accepted that even be- 
tween the closest human beings infinite distances continue to 

58 _ 

exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed 
in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for 
each to see the other whole and against a wide sky! 

Therefore this too must be the standard for rejection or choice: 
whether one is willing to stand guard over the solitude of a per- 
son and whether one is inclined to set this same person at the 
gate of one's own solitude, of which he learns only through that 
which steps, festively clothed, out of the great darkness. 

This is my opinion and my law. And, if it is possible, let me soon 
again hear good and courageous things from you. 

To Helmuth Westhoff [Westerwede 

November 12, 1901] 

You wrote me a very fine letter and thought of me so kindly, 
although I still hadn't sent you the poem about the "Peacock- 
feather" I promised you long ago; but see, now I will go right 
away and copy it neatly out of the book in which it is printed. 
I composed this little poem several (it must have been at least 
five) , several years ago in the city of Munich where in October 
there is something like your free market. A whole field of booths. 
And while the other people went about laughing and teasing 
each other and trying to touch and tickle each other with the 
long peacockfeathers (which amused them very much), I went 
about alone with my peacockf eather which was much too proud 
to tickle anybody, and the longer I carried it about with me thus, 
the more the slenderness of its form engaged me as it balanced on 
its elastic shaft, and the beauty of its head from which the "pea- 
cock eye" looked out at me dark and mysterious. It was as though 
I were seeing such a feather for the very first time, and it seemed 
to me to hold a whole wealth of beauties that no one was notic- 
ing but I. And out of this feeling came the little poem that I dedi- 
cated at that time to a dear friend, a painter, who I knew loved 
peacockfeathers too. You can imagine what a peacockfeather 
means to a painter, who has a different, far more intimate rela- 


tionship with colors than we have, how much he can learn from 
it and how much the harmony in the variety, and the multitude 
of colors all together there on such a little spot, can give him. 

But do you know what the principal thing was for me, dear 
Helmuth: that I saw once again that most people hold things in 
their hands to do something stupid with them (as, for example, 
tickling each other with peacockf eathers) , instead of looking 
carefully at each thing and asking each about the beauty it pos- 
sesses. So it comes to pass that most people don't know at all how 
beautiful the world is and how much splendor is revealed in the 
smallest things, in some flower, a stone, the bark of a tree, or a 
birch leaf. Grown-up people, who have business and cares and 
worry about a lot of trifles, gradually lose their eye entirely for 
these riches which children, when they are alert and good chil- 
dren, soon notice and love with all their hearts. And yet the 
finest thing would be if all people would always stay in this rela- 
tionship like alert and good children, with simple and reverent 
feelings, and if they would not lose the power to rejoice as deeply 
in a birch leaf or in the feather of a peacock or the pinion of a 
hooded crow as in a great mountain range or a splendid palace. 
The small is as little small as the big is big. There is a great and 
eternal beauty throughout the world, and it is scattered justly 
over the small things and the big; for in the important and essen- 
tial there is no injustice on the whole earth. 

This, dear Helmuth, all hangs together somewhat with the 
poem of the peacockfeather in which I could only express badly 
what I meant. I was still very young then. But now I know it 
better every year and can tell people better all the time that 
there is a great deal of beauty in the world almost nothing but 

That you know as well as I, dear Helmuth. And now, 
thank you again, dear Helmuth. It doesn't matter that to- 
day isn't my birthday but only my name day, which you 
really don't celebrate at all. With us in Austria that is a festive 
day. There everyone has a saint whose name has been given to 
him, and on the day that is dedicated to that saint, he receives 


for him, wishes and words and gifts which he may keep for 
himself, and doesn't have to pass on to the saint. It is quite a 
beautiful and sympathetic custom. 

Yes, it is too bad you aren't with us, with Friedrich and your 
parents, for then I would be able to talk to you and tell you 
something nice, and what is more, I could offer you the cake 
I g t a very beautiful cake , which without help the two of 
us alone can finish up only with great difficulty. 

I gave our black dog your greeting. Then he stood up, settled 
himself on his hind legs, laid his front paws on my shoulders and 
tried to give me a big, black kiss which I naturally don't allow. 

He is strong and has a voice that rings out fearfully if one 
hasn't a good conscience. But we always have one. 

Clara sends you many affectionate greetings, but above all, 
dear Helmuth, greetings, and thanks from 

Your faithful 


[from the book Advent] 

Matchless in your delicacy, 
how I loved you even as a child. 
I held you for a lovetoken 
which by silver-silent pools 
elves in cool night hand each other 
when children all are sleeping. 

And because good little Granny 

often read to me of wishing-wands, 

so it was I dreamt: frail spirit, 

in your delicate fibers flows 

the cunning power of the enchanted rod 

and sought you in the summer grass. , . . 


To Gustav Pauli Westerwede bei Bremen 

January 8, 1902 

... In the middle of 1902, through family circumstances, I 
shall lose an allowance from home which is not large but on 
which we have lived remarkably well and are living (under vari- 
ous difficulties). What will happen then, I don't know. For 
weeks I haven't had a single moment of peace under the pressure 
of this colossal new fear. At first I kept hoping I could take on 
something that would enable me to remain out here with my dear 
ones in the quiet home we have scarcely established, of whose 
quiet I am not to be able to take full advantage for my work. 
The interest of a publisher who made possible for me a year of 
quiet work would have sufficed to offer me the opportunity for 
that progress which I know I could now make if my powers 
might remain concentrated and my senses within the quiet world 
that has been rounded out in such a wonderfully beautiful way 
by the dear child. For me, marriage, which from the ordinary 
point of view was an act of great foolishness, was a necessity. My 
world, which has so little connection with mundane existence, 
was, in my bachelor room, abandoned to every wind, unpro- 
tected, and needed for its development this quiet house of its own 
under the wide skies of solitude. Also I read in Michelet that life 
for two is simpler and cheaper than the life open to betrayal on 
all sides, the exploited existence of the single person and I gladly 
believed the belief of that dear child Michelet. . . . 

It is an extremely cruel fate that now, when I am surrounded 
by all the conditions that were as desirable and necessary to my 
art as bread, I must probably leave everything in midstream 
(for what other way out remains!), to go away from all that is 
dear to all that is alien. I am trying daily to accustom myself 
to the thought of the approaching departure by taking it every 
evening in stronger and stronger doses. But where am I to go? 
Of what work am I capable? Where can I be used and so used 
that that which, in the end, remains and must remain my life, my 


task, even my duty, is not destroyed! My father, in his remote 
generosity, wants to procure for me the post of an official at a 
bank in Prague, but that means giving up everything, making 
an end, renouncing, returning to the conditions from the prox- 
imity of which I fled even as a child. From the spiritual point of 
view alone, that is a sort of resignation, a frost, in which every- 
thing would have to die. This my good father, who was always 
an official, does not sense, and thinks anyway that beside an art 
like mine there is room for any occupation. If it were a ques- 
tion of a painter, he would understand that such a position would 
mean the ruin of his art, my activity I could still pursue satis- 
factorily (so he thinks) in a few evening hours. And moreover, 
I especially, who haven't too much strength at my disposal, must 
live out of a unified and collected state and avoid every hin- 
drance and division which diverts the resultant in the parallelo- 
gram of forces from its direction, if I want to reach my 
objectives (so unexplainable to others, even to my dear father). 
And that I want that, and that I want it although the objectives 
are great, is not arrogance and worldly vanity which I am choos- 
ing for myself; it is imposed on me like a task, like a mission 
and in everything in which I succeed, I am, more than anyone, the 
willing and humble executor of lofty commands, whose device 
in his finest hours, may read, "I serve.'' And finally it would, after 
all, be irresponsible, at the moment when the necessity of earn- 
ing my own living presents itself close at hand and energetically, 
to forsake the path which, obeying urges and longings of my 
own, I have trod since boyhood, and to leave lying on the old 
building site the hewn building stones of a life which bear only 
the traces of my chisel, in order, with no heart for the work, 
to help build with manufactured bricks, in the pay of a little 
man, someone else's house next door, to which I am indifferent. 

Wouldn't that mean jumping out of my own skiff, which will 
perhaps touch on my own shore after a few strong strokes of the 
oar (if I may be permitted to give them), and continuing on a 
big steamer, lost among hundreds of people, to a common place, 

as indifferent and banal as a coffeehouse garden on Sunday after- 

I would rather starve with my family than take this step, which 
is like a death without the grandeur of death. 

Isn't it much more to the point to draw practical results from 
what I have already done, to make out of a poetic art a literary 
art-craft which would support its follower? This literary art- 
craft could be journalism, but isn't. The roads to it are closed, or 
at least made very difficult for me by my own disinclination. But 
there must be other points at which my honest powers could get 
started; to be sure, I am the last to find these points I don't even 
know whom I could ask about such points. . . . 

If nothing presents itself anywhere (a collaboration of a regu- 
lar kind or something of the sort) I shall probably have to leave 
Westerwede in the course of this year, and I wonder if in Bremen, 
where as a stranger I have found such a land and trusting recep- 
tion, there wouldn't be some position in which I could prove 
myself useful. Doesn't the enlarging of the Art Museum neces- 
sitate any filling out of the personnel, or isn't there some other 
collection or an institution in which I could work? I haven't got 
my doctorate, and now there isn't any money to go on studying; 
I think that title (which I have gladly avoided like all titles) 
couldn't help me anyway at this moment! If I succeeded in giving 
a series of lectures yearly, and if my wife were to take over the 
school, perhaps it would then be possible to survive the first, 
most difficult years, as each could live on his own earnings. With 
the inexpensive requirements of our farmhouse, and the trifling 
needs we both have, an income of about 2 50 marks monthly would 
suffice us together, so that each would have to earn about 125 

Shouldn't that be possible somehow? , 

If, without disturbing our own work, we could last out a year 
in this way, I am convinced that that work would have grown 
strong enough during this year to take us on its shoulders and 
carry us along. But if you think this cannot be managed by 


any means, may I beg of you to give me, for some city in which 
you have connections, be it Munich or Dresden or another, some 
advice or a good word which I can use when the time comes? 

Forgive me for writing this presumptuous letter. Since the fall, 
all my days and nights have been a continual, anxious battle with 
the morrow, and in the face of your generosity it seems to me 
dishonest to hide from you a situation which everyone really 
should know who wishes me well. And I know that you do, my 
dear doctor. 

Should my disclosures be a burden to you, take no further no- 
tice of them, without therefore changing your friendly attitude 
toward me; I know that it is inconsiderate to take someone into 
one's confidence so forcibly at the eleventh hour, but I am at the 
point where I think that for once I may be inconsiderate of peo- 
ple I trust: as when one's clothes are burning, or someone is 
dying, one would certainly awaken a friend whose sleep one 
would otherwise never have dared to disturb. . . . 


To Paula Modersohn-Becker Bremen 

February 12, 1902 

Permit me to say a few words about your letter to my dear 
wife: it concerns me very closely as you know, and if I were 
not in Bremen, I would seek an opportunity to discuss the mat- 
ter with you in person, the . . . indeed, what matter? Will you 
believe me that it is hard for me to understand what you are ac- 
tually talking about? Nothing has happened really or rather: 
much that is good has happened, and the misunderstanding is 
based on the fact that you do not want to grant what has hap- 
pened. Everything is supposed to be as it was, and yet every- 
thing is different from what it has been. If your love for Clara 
Westhoff wants to do something now, then its work and task is 
this: to catch up with what it has missed. For it has failed to see 
whither this person has gone, it has failed to accompany her in 
her broadest development, it has failed to spread itself out over 


the new distances this person embraces, and it hasn't ceasdd look- 
ing for her at a certain point in her growth, it wants obstinately 
to hold fast to a definite beauty beyond which she has passed, 
instead of persevering, confident of new shared beauties to come. 
The confidence you proved to me, dear friend, when you 
vouchsafed me a little glance into the pages of your journal, en- 
titles me (as I believe) to remind you how strange and distant 
and incomparable Clara Westhoff 's nature seemed to you in the 
beginning, how surrounded by a solitude whose doors you didn't 
know. . . . And this first important impression you have been 
able so far to forget as to accompany only with blame and warn- 
ing the entering of this person, whom you began to love because 
of her differentness and solitude, into a new solitude, the rea- 
sons for which you are even better able to examine than the 
reasons for that first seclusion, which you certainly didn't regard 
with reproach then, but rather with a certain admiring recogni- 
tion. If your love has remained vigilant, then it must have seen 
that the experiences which came to Clara Westhoff derived their 
worth from the very fact that they were tightly and indissolubly 
bound up with the inner being of the house in which the future 
is to find us: we had to burn all the wood on our own hearth in 
order to warm up our house for the first time and make it livable, 
Do I have to tell you that we had cares, heavy and anxious cares r 
which might not be carried outside any more than the few hours 
of deep happiness? . . . Does it surprise you that the centers 
of gravity have shifted, and is your love and friendship so dis- 
trustful that it wants constantly to see and grasp what it possesses? 
You will continually have to experience disappointments if you 
expect to find the old relationship; but why don't you rejoice 
in the new one that will begin when someday the gates of Clara 
Westhoff's new solitude are opened to receive you? I too am 
standing quietly and full of deep trust before the gates of this soli- 
tude, because I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between 
two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of 
the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the 
crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are 


there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity 
for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which 
rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation. . . . Think of 
the time when you came to know Clara Westhoff : then your 
love waited patiently for an opening gate, the same love which 
now raps impatiently on the walls behind which things are be- 
ing accomplished of which we have no cognizance, of which 
I know just as little as you, only that I have faith that they will 
touch me deeply and closely when they reveal themselves to me 
someday. And cannot your love grasp a similar faith? Out of 
this faith alone will joys come to it by which it will live with- 
out starving. 

To Countess Frantiska ReventhlV Westerwede bei Worpswede 

April ii, 1902 

I haven't written you, my very dear friend, for such an end- 
lessly long time; there were so many external living worries, 
earning, earning, earning, and that isn't at all easy from Wester- 
wede. I had to write and do a lot of things in order to help my 
outward circumstances, and since they have not been basically 
helped yet, I shall have to write and do much more still, if it 
does any good anyway. . . . But things are going well with 
my family, and little Ruth is growing wonderfully well, already 
has quite incredibly serious and thoughtful hours which alter- 
nate harmoniously with very happy and few crying ones. My 
wife is growing with her, rejoicing in the charming example of 
the dear little creature! And so my house is standing upright 
as never before in the spring that wants to come, . . . And if it 
weren't for those daily worries. . . . 


To Oskar Zivintscher Westerwede 

April 24, 1902: 

. . . Yes, it has become spring, and this time, since we see a 
little garden coming up under our hands, we feel in some near 
degree related to it. Tulips and narcissus, beside a big peony, are 
already growing, two little arbors are already hung with the 
twigs of young birches as with green lace veils, and a few tall- 
stemmed roses are already sprouting, something one can't forget 
at all and feels as a most delightful promise. 

On the neighbors' roof a stork appeared recently and the minute 
investigation of the roof in which he was engaged permits the 
hope that he is thinking of settling there: that naturally would be 
a great joy. 

Very beautiful is the spring here in its coming. In the morn- 
ing the day is released from thousands of bird voices, and the 
evenings deepen at the beginning of the first sound of the 
nightingale, which makes the stillness stiller and more full of 
portent. And the moonlight nights are unusually bright, and if 
they darken, a rain begins to fall; tender, soft, and warm, idle 
like a dream and yet full of veiled happening. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Schloss Haseldorf in Holsteii* 

June 5, 1902 

Dearest and best, I thank you for your big letter. I can imagine 
that the day of travel was difficult and oppressive and the night 
in the Amsterdam hotel not pleasant; on that day, Hamburg 
(where I had indeed about two hours) didn't appeal to me at all 
either; it was as hot and airless as any inland city. . . . And my 
first night in Haseldorf was no less sultry than yours at the Van 
Gelder. And since then, there have been a lot of such days, 
burning, breathless days that sometimes dissolved only toward 
evening in the slowly darkening air. Today (for the first time) 

there is a cloudy sky and some rain. The park is beautiful. It is 
especially entrancing to stand at one of the tall windows of the 
dining hall. There one sees the high stretches of lawn that are 
growing wild and are already so high that a few rosebushes almost 
disappear in the green billows. In these meadows stand two in- 
finitely beautiful blossoming trees, resembling apple trees. They 
call them Crataegus (thornless Crataegus) ; I don't know what that 
is, but anyway it won't be unfamiliar to you. Otherwise, when 
I walk in the garden, I always enjoy recognizing one or another 
of the flowers or a bush which you have named for me. The 
loveliest are the paths along the castle moat. There the old chest- 
nuts now stand, built up like mountains, with their branches all 
the way down to the earth and with a whole world of shadows 
under the thousand hands of their leaves. They are blossoming 
now. And it is quite wonderful the way those blossom-cones rise 
up at rhythmic intervals to the highest branches. By day that is 
all rather too green, but recently, in the evening about ten-thirty 
(it was still twilight), these old trees were like dark mantles with 
embroidered, regularly recurring patterns. The white of the 
blossoms became wonderfully mysterious and sometimes one of 
the blossom-pyramids had the appearance of raised, clasped hands 
coming out of a dark cloak. Unfortunately the murky, sluggish 
moat gave back no reflection of these wonderful trees. Lilacs and 
rhododendrons also grow at a similar height on ancient bushes 
that suddenly display rich blooms somewhere high up in the tree- 
crowns. Flesh-colored azaleas stretch out their fragrance, and 
the magnolias already have leaves beside the great water-lily-like 
blossoms. Today I also discovered a tall tree covered with broad 
cool green leaves and strange silver-gray closed buds that were 
very dignified. I take it to be a nut tree . . . but I am not very 
often in this garden, because the heat makes it heavy and being 
shut in by the dike evokes a kind of close sadness. Also, there are 
so many black, houseless wood snails on the paths that one goes 
about in continual fear of crushing one. 

I am a great deal in my room where it is warmest and pleasantest 
and where I feel tolerably alone. . . . Now I go over some- 

times into the archives, rummage in old books and read a few 
lines here and there: whether I shall find something I can use is 
questionable. The letters I had in mind are so impossible to glance 
through that one would have to read for a year to get any in- 
sight into them, and in addition the difficult old script, the bad 
air, and the dust in the archives are no encouragement to it. So 
in this connection too I must confine myself to what is already 
printed; I am browsing in the histories of the von Ahlefeldt and 
von Oppen-Schilden families who formerly resided at Haseldorf, 
and it is not impossible that I will run into some interesting biog- 
raphy there, although I lack talent and practice as a discoverer of 
good book passages. What interests me very much meanwhile is 
looking through old editions just for the sake of their type and 
their frontispieces, rummaging through old portfolios with en- 
gravings from the end of the eighteenth century and smiling a lit- 
tle at the long, almost inquisitive profiles of deceased chamber- 
lains and knights of the Danebrog. In somewhat cooler weather I 
would certainly have been disposed to somewhat more activity, 
but certainly too it is a reaction from my recent work period which 
won't allow me to get at anything real. There is no harm; and the 
weeks here still have their sense, even if they consist merely in 
the reading of a few books I wouldn't otherwise have laid hands 
on. . . . 

1 31 3 

To Frau Julie Weinmann for the present 

Schloss Haseldorf (Holstein) 
June 25, 1902 

. . . The last time I wrote (somewhat over a year ago) I an- 
nounced to you my marriage. The person who is so fondly bound 
up with and indispensable to my life is a young sculptress who 
has worked with Rodin in Paris, a girl full of power and artis- 
tic ability, an artist, from whose growth I expect the greatest 
conceivable results. That and a limitless, mutual faith brought 
us together. Since December we have a dear little daughter, Ruth, 


and life has become much richer with her. For the woman 
according to my conviction a child is a completion and a liber- 
ation from all strangeness and insecurity: it is, spiritually too, the 
mark of maturity; and I am filled with the conviction that the 
woman artist, who has had and has and loves a child, is, no less 
than the mature man, capable of reaching all the artistic heights 
the man can reach under the same conditions, that is, if he is an 
artist. In a word, I consider the woman in whom lives deep 
artistic striving the equal of the masculine artist from the moment 
of her maturity and fulfillment on, entitled and summoned to the 
same ambitious goals in which he in his best hours may solitarily 
believe. I am saying this only so that I may now say that the mean- 
ing of my marriage lies in helping this dear young person to find 
herself, her greatness and depths, in so far as one human being 
can help another. Clara Westhoff has for a long time been no 
beginner: she has proved by my portrait-bust, by the bust of 
Heinrich Vogeler (which was purchased by the Bremen Art 
Museum) and several smaller works that have been exhibited, 
that she can hardly be mistaken for anyone else now and can be 
seen beside the best. All this, however, is not the matter about 
which I want to speak, although it leads me to the subject of this 
letter, to myself. 

It is clear to me that I need help in order to continue on my 
way. I need the opportunity to be allowed to absorb quietly, to 
learn for a year or two, without having to write. The course of 
my education was broken by a variety of accidents, and in the 
end that is not a misfortune; for in those years one has not really 
the ability to choose one's education, which later makes the win- 
ning of knowledge and truth so precious. Now I know what I 
need; two great journeys to Russia which I have taken in recent 
years have given me wide ranges and tasks and have strengthened 
and confirmed me in myself. And now in the fall I want to go to 
Paris, in order, guided by the connoisseur of Russian things, the 
Vicomte de Vogue, to work in the libraries, to collect myself, and 
to write about Rodin whom I have loved and revered for a long 
time. That is the external side of what I want for the immediate 

future, a little portion of that deep wanting which goes toward 
my work and toward its continuous realization. 

What can one who wants a great deal say of this wanting with- 
out betraying it and becoming a boaster? Here every word in- 
volves a false note and an affront to what it means. One can only 
say that one comes more and more to protect this wanting which 
goes toward deep and important things, that one longs more 
and more sincerely and wholeheartedly to give it all one's strength 
and all one's love and to experience worries through it and not 
through the little harassing accidents of which life in poverty is 
full. I am very poor. I do not suffer from poverty because at bot- 
tom it refuses me nothing. But this winter, for the first time, it 
stood before me for months like a specter, and I lost myself and 
all my beloved aims and all the light out of my heart and came 
near taking some little official post, and that would have meant: 
dying and setting out on a spiritual transmigration full of home- 
lessness and madness. I deliberated at the last moment and 
clung to what, even as a child, I had begun dimly and longingly 
to want. I am indeed no longer a beginner who throws himself 
at random into the future. I have worked, for years, and if I 
have worked out anything for myself, it is the belief in the right 
to raise the best I have in me and the awareness of the treasures 
in the sesame of my soul which I can no longer forget. And after 
all I know that my pen will be strong enough to carry me: only 
I may not misuse it too early and must give it time to attain its 
full growth. 

My dear lady, I am speaking to you because I know of no one 
who could understand and feel the meaning of words like this, 
despite all the omissions, no one who would be generous enough 
to pardon them, and kind enough to see what lies behind them. I 
am gathering all my confidence together and begging you to ac- 
cept it, because my memory of you, of your husband and of the 
spirit of your kindly house brings before me people who do not 
consider the striving for artistic fulfillment as something super- 
fluous, but rather as a great law which awakens in those who 
love life most deeply. 


Perhaps you remember me: perhaps one of my verses will ex- 
cuse me for approaching you out of my distance, perhaps some- 
thing in your heart will believe that I am not presuming too much 
when I beg for my best, as for a child that I do not want to let die. 

In the past year I have had a little household with my wife 
(in a little village near Worpswede) ; but the household consumed 
too much, and so we have promised each other to live for our 
work, each as a bachelor of limited means, as before. That also 
gives to each the possibility of being wherever his work happens 
to require. For, since work must be quite uppermost, we are also 
prepared to bear a geographical separation from time to time if it 
is necessary. We have lost a good deal of time, but this year must 
take us both further along. Will you help me to my goal, dear 
lady? Will you and your husband make it possible for me to work 
on myself this year in Paris, in quiet and peace of mind, without 
this continual fear that insinuates itself into all thoughts and into 
every quiet of my heart? Not without poverty, only without fear! 
And only for a year? 

I have never begged from anyone; you see I don't know how 
it is done, nor do I know whether I can thank: but I believe I can. 

My wife will probably obtain an artist-fellowship and only 
accept a very small subsidy from me which I can easily afford 
from what I earn on the side. What I desire so ardently, however, 
and consider so important for my development, is what I have 
never actually had: a single year of quiet, fear-free work. A 
little peace and composure from which so much future can come. 

I know of no fellowship for which I could apply, no person 
whom I may really ask. And so I come to you, quite unashamed, 
as to old friends. 

Perhaps, dear lady, none of the books I have written in recent 
years has come to your notice. Fortunately a new book of poems 
is coming out in the next few weeks, so that I can at least tell you 
where I stand and whither I have gone in these years; that I will 
do at all events. 

I am writing this letter in a still, lonely evening hour and not 
reading it over because perhaps then I wouldn't send it off . Not 


that I am ashamed of it; but I am afraid, dear lady, of losing or 
offending you the moment the picture you have of me shifts un- 
der its influence. If it could have such an effect, then please 
let it be nothing, let it not have been, for beyond everything the 
assurance is precious to me that you still think kindly of me and 
that I may kiss your hand in unaltered respect. 

I 32 3 

To Friedrich Huch Schloss Haseldorf in Holstein 

[July 6, 1902] 

... I rejoice in all the activity that lies before you, in the 
new position yOu will have in Lodz, which is so wonderful, so fine 
and human in the most forward-looking sense, that I cannot con- 
gratulate you enthusiastically enough on it. Congratulate, un- 
fortunately not envy; for although I quite share your knowledge 
and feeling that the world belongs to young youth, the world 
in its breadth and reality, there is nevertheless between me and 
every young person a perpetual embarrassment which does not 
allow a mutual influencing and relationship to arise. I suffer under 
this ban which sometimes makes my great solitude (which since 
early boyhood I have otherwise borne so gladly and thankfully) 
raw at the borders; but that is why my Stories of God also had 
the subtitle: told to grownups for children, because I knew that 
only over those swaying bridges and through those dark ravines 
can I get to the dear creatures who can understand me if I try 
to say something about God. . . . 

But alas, this burden of the monograph has been demanding 
and has used up or dulled the strength and joy for thousands of 
things. I am so little made to write for money, and otherwise noth- 
ing remains for me but to take an obscure little official post in 
Prague, with a killing monotony. Which really would be death 
for me. I don't believe I would still be permitted then to think 
of writing anything, although the unsaid stands weeping about 
me. An official's life is an official's life. 

To my verses, to the health of soul out of which they rise. 


belongs the country, long roads, walking barefoot in the soft 
grass, on hard roads or in the clean snow, deep breathing, listen- 
ing, stillness, and the reverence of wide evenings. Without that: 
shut up in a writing room with other people and stale air and 
condemned to a senseless manual work consisting of inanity and 
habit, I would never again venture to write down a word, dis- 
trustful of the altered voice of my lazy, misused blood, deaf to 
the dearest words of my soul whose truth I would no longer be 
allowed to feel and live. 

For months already, dear Friedrich Huch, I have been resisting 
this fate, this death without an hour of dying, I have looked 
about for everything possible, but nowhere is there anyone who 
can use me as I am. Not being able to say what I "can do/' I have 
difficulty in making what I am looking for intelligible to people. 
I hoped, asked, waited for some correspondence, but in vain. 
Now, with difficulty enough, we have already made the decision 
to dissolve our little household, because it became evident that 
it (this so-called household) was sitting as a third at our table and 
taking from our plates what we wanted to eat. In so doing we 
enable each to live better for his work, for our marriage was 
made in order that each might better help the other to his work 
and to himself. I hope it will be possible for us to settle not too far 
from one another. But Clara Westhoff (of whose art I expect the 
greatest things! ) has to think of Ruth as well as of herself and 
her development, think, that is, with concern and care, and must 
not in any way suffer in poverty as one of the concomitants of a 
marriage. Next winter then is somehow to be arranged accord- 
ingly. Clara Westhoff (she and our dear little child, who are still 
in Westerwede now) must choose for herself the place to stay 
which she considers good and useful for her work, and I hope 
very much she will obtain a fellowship which will help her to 
peace and composure. (She had, by the way, quite a good deal 
of success at the exhibitions: the portrait bust of Heinrich Voge- 
ler a very good work was purchased twice in bronze.) If then 
the dearest person I have in the world again has her life and her 


work, I too may think seriously of myself and make one more 
attempt to come to terms with circumstances. 

I want first (at the beginning of September perhaps) to go to 
Paris; for I have undertaken to write the book on Rodin in the 
new publications instigated by Muther. At first I thought I 
might perhaps be able to keep myself there somehow, but now I 
scarcely believe any more in this possibility. I urgently need 
besides my most intimate work, which is gift and miracle every 
time it happens, something I can always do in order to live over 
the in-between times to new work hours to come. My Russian 
study was welcome to me for that; but now the necessity of 
earning continually comes over both, wipes out the boundaries, 
makes one as well as the other vain, and imposes a third thing 
on me and fear and suffocation. To change this at last, I am think- 
ing of going to a university, to Muther, who is a friend of mine, 
of working for a while quite objectively, of writing something 
only now and then (enough to be able to study, no more), of 
doing my doctorate as soon as may be ... and? . . . The title 
is of some help after all, but I believe that above all the quiet, 
objective work will make me of more use for taking some position 
later that will not make me too miserable. I know so little, and I 
lack the magic word at which books open, I would like so much 
to read and learn many things, some need in me runs parallel to 
that plan of study. I have done three or four semesters at vari- 
ous universities, in which I could give a satisfactory account of 
myself, so ought surely to be able (circumstances being what they 
are) to obtain the "doctorate" in a year to a year and a half. 
Do you understand how I mean that? It seems to me not so com- 
pletely hopeless: externally the way to a title that does after all 
help, inwardly: work. . . . Tell me, dear Friedrich Huch, what 
you think of this decision. Can I in my situation look for anything 
different or better? Advise me as you would advise a child, for I 
deserve to be thus advised. Here in the still summer days my plan 
grew up out of a great deal of anxiety, and besides you only 
Muther, whom it closely concerns, knows of it. But when your 


kind letter came today, I decided to tell you how things are with 
me. That is how they are, if I see correctly. And now tell me, do 
I see correctly? . . . 

I Ml 

To Arthur Holitscher Westerwede bei Worpswede 

July 31, 1902 

... I am ... utterly absorbed in Rodin who is growing and 
growing for me the more I hear and see of his works. Does anyone 
exist, I wonder, who is as great as he and yet is still living; (it often 
seems to me that death and greatness are only one word; I remem- 
ber how, when I read Niels Lyhne for the first time years ago 
in Munich, I planned to look for the person who had written 
it ... later I heard him spoken of as of one long dead . . .) and 
Rodin is still living. I have the feeling that, quite aside from his art, 
he is a synthesis of greatness and power, a future century, a man 
without contemporaries. Under such circumstances, you can 
imagine that I am impatiently awaiting the first of September, the 
day when I shall go to Paris. . . . 

I 3*1 

To AugUSte Rodin Worpswede bei Bremen 

[in French] August i, 1902 

My Master, 

... I wrote you from Haseldorf that in September I shall be 
in Paris to prepare myself for the book consecrated to your work. 
But what I have not yet told you is that for me, for rny work (the 
work of a writer or rather of a poet), it will be a great event to 
come near you. Your art is such (I have felt it for a long time) 
that it knows how to give bread and gold to painters, to poets, 
to sculptors: to all artists who go their way of suffering, desiring 
nothing but that ray of eternity which is the supreme goal of the 
creative life. 

I began to write (when still quite young) and there are already 

__ 77 

eight or nine books of mine: verses, prose, and a few dramas 
which, played in Berlin, found only irony in this public which 
loves the opportunity of showing its disdain for the solitary man. 

To my sorrow there exists no translation of my books so that 
I could ask you to give them just one glance; nevertheless I shall 
bring you, when I come, one or another in the original language, 
for I need, to know some of my confessions among your things, 
in your possession, near you, as one puts a silver heart on the 
altar of a miraculous martyr. 

All my life has changed since I know that you exist, my Master, 
and that the day when I shall see you is one (and perhaps the 
happiest) of my days. 

... It is the most tragic fate of young people who sense that 
it will be impossible for them to live without being poets or 
painters or sculptors, that they do not find true counsel, all 
plunged in an abyss of forsakenness as they are; for in seeking a 
powerful master, they seek neither words, nor information: they 
ask for an example, a fervent heart, hands that make greatness. 
It is for you that they ask. 

To Clara Rilke n rue Toullier, Paris 

Tuesday, September 2, 1902 

. . . Yesterday, Monday afternoon at three o'clock, I was at 
Rodin's for the first time. Atelier 182 rue de 1'Universite. I went 
down the Seine. He had a model, a girl. Had a little plaster ob- 
ject in his hand on which he was scraping about. He simply quit 
work, offered me a chair, and we talked. He was kind and gentle. 
And it seemed to me that I had always known him. That I was 
only seeing him again; I found him smaller, and yet more power- 
ful, more kindly, and more noble. That forehead, the relationship 
it bears to his nose which rides out of it like a ship out of harbor 
. . . that is very remarkable. Character of stone is in that fore- 
head and that nose. And his mouth has a speech whose ring is 
good, intimate, and full of youth. So also is his laugh, that em- 


barrassed and at the same time joyful laugh of a child that has 
been given lovely presents. He is very dear to me. That I knew 
at once. We spoke of many things (as far as my queer language 
and his time permitted). . . . Then he went on working and 
begged me to inspect everything that is in the studio. That is 
not a little. The "hand" is there. C'est une main comme-ga (he 
said and made with his own so powerful a gesture of holding and 
shaping that one seemed to see things growing out of it) . C'est 
une main comme-ga, qui tient un morceau de terre glaise avec 
des . . . And indicating the two figures united in such a won- 
derfully deep and mysterious fashion: c'est une creation ga, une 
creation. . . . He said that in a marvelous way. . . . The French 
word lost its graciousness and didn't take on the pompous heavi- 
ness of the German word Schopfung ... it had loosed itself, 
redeemed itself from all language . . . was alone in the world: 

creation . . . 

A bas-relief is there; "Morning Star" he calls it. A head of a 
very young girl with a wonderfully young forehead, clear, de- 
lightful, bright, and simple; and deep down in the stone, a hand 
emerges which protects from the brightness the eyes of a man, of 
one who is awakening. Almost those eyes are still in the stone (so 
marvellously is the not-yet-having-waked expressed here so 
plastically) : One sees only the mouth and the beard. There is a 
woman's portrait. There is more than one can say, and everything 
small has so much bigness that the space in studio H seems to 
stretch into the immeasurable in order to include everything. 

And now today: I took the train at nine o'clock this morning 
to Meudon (Gare Montparnasse, a twenty-minute ride from 
there) . The villa, which he himself called un petit chateau Louis 
XIII is not beautiful . It has a three-window f agade, red brick 
with yellowish framework, a steep gray roof, tall chimneys. All 
the "picturesque" disorder of Val Fleury spreads out before it, 
a narrow valley in which the houses are poor and look like those 
in Italian vineyards. (And there are probably vineyards here too, 
for the steep dirty village street through which one passes is called 
rue de la Vigne . . .) ; then one walks over a bridge, along an- 


other stretch of road past a little osteria, also quite Italian in 
appearance. To the left is the door. First, a long avenue of chest- 
nuts, strewn with coarse gravel. Then a little wooden latticed 
door. Another little latticed door. Then one rounds the corner 
of the little red-yellow house and stands before a miracle be- 
fore a garden of stone and plaster figures. His big pavilion, the 
same one that was in the exposition at the Pont Alma, has now 
been transported into his garden which it apparently fills com- 
pletely, along with several more studios in which are stonecutters 
and in which he himself works. Then there are in addition rooms 
for baking clay and for all kinds of manual work. It is an im- 
mensely great and strange impression, this great, light hall with 
all its white, dazzling figures looking out of the many high glass 
doors like the inhabitants of an aquarium. The impression is great, 
colossal. One sees, even before one has entered, that all these hun- 
dreds of lives are one life, vibrations of one power and one will. 
What a lot is ttiere everything, everything. The marble of 
La Priere; plaster casts of almost everything. Like the work 
of a century ... an army of work. There are gigantic show- 
cases, entirely filled with wonderful fragments of the Porte de 
TEnfer. It is indescribable. There it lies, yard upon yard, only 
fragments, one beside the other. Figures the size of my hand and 
larger ... but only pieces, hardly one that is whole: often only 
a piece of arm, a piece of leg, as they happen to go along beside 
each other, and the piece of body that belongs right near them. 
Once the torso of a figure with the head of another pressed 
against it, with the arm of a third . . . as if an unspeakable storm, 
an unparalleled destruction had passed over this work. And yet, 
the more closely one looks, the more deeply one feels that all 
this would be less of a whole if the individual bodies were whole. 
Each of these bits is of such an eminent, striking unity, so pos- 
sible by itself, so not at all needing completion, that one forgets 
they are only parts, and often parts of different bodies that cling 
to each other so passionately there. One feels suddenly that it is 
rather the business of the scholar to conceive of the body as a 
whole and much more that of the artist to create from the parts 


new relationships, new unities, greater, more logical . . . more 
eternal. . , . And this wealth, this endless, continual invention, 
this poise, purity, and vehemence of expression, this inexhaust- 
ibleness, this youth, this still having something, still having the 
best to say . . . this is without parallel in the history of men. 
Then there are tables, model-stands, chests of drawers . . . com- 
pletely covered with little figures golden-brown and yellow- 
ochre baked clay. Arms no bigger than my little finger, but filled 
with a life that makes one's heart pound. Hands one can cover 
with a ten-pfennig piece and yet filled with an abundance of wis- 
dom, quite exactly worked out and yet not trivial ... as if a 
giant had made them immeasurably big: so this man makes them 
to his proportions. He is so great; when he makes them very small, 
as small as he can, they are still even bigger than people . . . 
among these little things which are all about and which one can 
take into one's hand, I felt the way I did that time in Petersburg 
before the little Venus from the excavations*. . . . There are 
hundreds and hundreds of them there, no one little piece like 
another each a feeling, each a bit of love, devotion, kindness, 
and searching. I was in Meudon until about three o'clock. Rodin 
came to me from time to time, asked and said many things, noth- 
ing important. The barrier of language is too great. I brought 
him my poems today if he could only read them. ... I think 
now that the "Last Judgment" would mean something to him. 
He leafed through them very attentively. The format surprised 
him, I think, especially in the Book of Pictures. And there stand 
those stupid languages, helpless as two bridges that go over the 
same river side by side but are separated from each other by an 
abyss. It is a mere bagatelle, an accident, and yet it separates. . . . 
After twelve Rodin invited me to dejeuner, which was served 
out of doors; it was very odd. Madame Rodin (I had already seen 
her before he did 720* introduce me) looked tired, irritable, 
nervous, and inattentive. Across from me sat a French gentle- 
man with a red nose to whom I was also not introduced. Be- 
side me a very sweet little girl of about ten (I didn't learn who 
she is either . . .). Hardly were we seated, when Rodin com- 


plained of the tardiness of the meal; he was already dressed to go 
to the city. Whereupon Mme. Rodin became very nervous. Com- 
ment puis-je etre partout? she said. Disez-le a Madelaine (prob- 
ably the cook), and then out of her mouth came a flood of hasty 
and violent words which didn't sound really malicious, not dis- 
agreeable, but as though they came from a deeply injured person 
whose nerves will all snap in a minute. An agitation came over 
her whole body she began to shove everything about a bit on 
the table, so that it looked as if dinner were already over. Every- 
thing that had been laid out so neatly was left, as after a meal, 
lying scattered about anywhere. This scene was not painful, 
only sad. Rodin was quite quiet, went on saying very calmly 
'why he was complaining, gave very exact reasons for his com- 
plaint, spoke at once gently and firmly. Finally, a rather dirty 
person came, brought a few things (which were well cooked), 
carried them around and, in a very good-natured way, forced 
me to help myself when I didn't want to: he apparently thought 
me extremely shy. I have hardly ever been present at such a singu- 
lar dejeuner. Rodin was fairly talkative, spoke sometimes very 
rapidly, so that I didn't understand, but on the whole clearly. 
I told about Worpswede about the painters (of whom he knew 
nothing) ; he knew, as far as I could see, only Liebermann and 
Lenbach as illustrator. . . . The conversation was not con- 
ventional, also not out of the ordinary, just soso. Sometimes 
Madame also took part, always speaking very nervously and pas- 
sionately. She has gray curls, dark, deep-set eyes, looks thin, 
listless, tired, and old, tormented by something. After lunch she 
spoke to me in a very friendly manner only now as house- 
keeper , invited me always to have dejeuner whenever I am in 
Meudon etc. Tomorrow just as early I am going out again and 
perhaps a few days more: there is a very great deal. But it is 
fearfully taxing in the first place because of the quantity, sec- 
ondly, because everything is white; one goes about among the 
many dazzling plaster casts in the very bright pavilion as through 
snow. My eyes are hurting me, my hands too. . . . Forgive this 
smudged letter. You can surely read it. I had to write down for 


you just quickly all that I have lived today. It is important. Fare- 
well, my dear! dear and good one. I am glad that there is so much 
greatness and that we have found our way to it through the wide 
dismayed world. The two of us. Kiss our Ruth with my kisses. 

To Clara Rilke 1 1 rue Toullier, Paris 

September 5, 1902 

... I believe much has now been revealed to me at Rodin's 
recently. After a dejeuner that passed no less uneasily and 
strangely than the one I last mentioned, I went with Rodin into 
the garden, and we sat down on a bench which looked out won- 
derfully far over Paris. It was still and beautiful. The little girl 
(it is probably Rodin's daughter), the little girl had come with 
us without Rodin's having noticed her. Nor did the child seem 
to expect it. She sat down not far from us on the path and looked 
slowly and sadly for curious stones in the gravel. Sometimes she 
came over and looked at Rodin's mouth when he spoke, or at 
mine, if I happened to be saying something. Once she also brought 
a violet. She laid it bashfully with her little hand on that of Rodin 
and wanted to put it in his hand somehow, to fasten it somehow 
to that hand. But the hand was as though made of stone, Rodin 
only looked at it fleetingly, looked past it, past the shy little hand, 
past the violet, past the child, past this whole little moment of 
love, with a look that clung to the things that seemed continually 
to be taking shape in him. 

He spoke of art, of art dealers, of his lonely position and said a 
great deal that was beautiful which I rather sensed than under- 
stood, because he often spoke very indistinctly and very rapidly. 
He kept coming back to beauty which is everywhere for him 
who rightly understands and wants it, to things, to the life of 
these things de regarder une pierre, le torse d'une femme. . . . 
And again and again to work. Since physical, really difficult man- 
ual labor has come to count as something inferior he said, work 
has stopped altogether. I know five, six people in Paris who really 


work, perhaps a few more. There in the schools, what are they 
doing year after year they are "composing." In so doing they 
learn nothing at all of the nature of things. Le modele (ask your 
Berlitz French woman sometime how one could translate that, 
perhaps it is in her dictionary). I know what it means: it is the 
character of the surfaces, more or less in contrast to the contour, 
that which fills out all the contours. It is the law and the rela- 
tionship of these surfaces. Do you understand, for him there is 
only le modele ... in all things, in all bodies; he detaches it 
from them, makes it, after he has learned it from them, into an 
independent thing, that is, into sculpture, into a plastic work of 
art. For this reason, a piece of arm and leg and body is for him 
a whole, an entity, because he no longer thinks of arm, leg, body 
(that would seem to him too like subject matter, do you see, too 
novelistic, so to speak), but only of a modele which completes it- 
self, which is, in a certain sense, finished, rounded off. The follow- 
ing was extraordinarily illuminating in this respect. The little girl 
brought the shell of a small snail she had found in the gravel. The 
flower he hadn't noticed, this he noticed immediately. He took 
it in his hand, smiled, admired it, examined it and said suddenly: 
Voila le modele grec. I understood at once. He said further: 
Vous savez, ce n'est pas la forme de Tobjet, mais: le modele. . . . 
Then still another snail shell came to light, broken and crushed 
. . . : Cest le modele gothique-renaissance, said Rodin with 
his sweet, pure smile! . . . And what he meant was more or 
less: It is a question for me, that is for the sculptor par excellence, 
of seeing or studying not the colors or the contours but that which 
constitutes the plastic, the surfaces. The character of these, 
whether they are rough or smooth, shiny or dull (not in color 
but in character!). Things are infallible here. This little snail re- 
calls the greatest works of Greek art: it has the same simplicity, 
the same smoothness, the same inner radiance, the same cheerful 
and festive sort of surf ace. . , . And herein things are infallible! 
They contain laws in their purest form. Even the breaks in such 
a shell will again be of the same kind, will again be modele grec. 
This snail will always remain a whole, as regards its modele, and 


the smallest piece of snail shell is still always modele grec. . . . 
Now one notices for the first time what an advance his sculpture is. 
What must it have meant to him when he first felt that no one had 
ever yet looked for this basic element of plasticity! He had to 
find it: a thousand things offered it to him: above all the nude 
body. He had to transpose it, that is to make it into his expression, 
to become accustomed to saying everything through the modele 
and not otherivise. Here, do you see, is the second point in this 
great artist's life. The first was that he had discovered a new 
basic element of his art, the second, that he wanted nothing more 
of life than to express himself fully and all that is his through 
this element. He married, parce qu'il faut avoir une femme, as 
he said to me (in another connection, namely when I spoke of 
groups who join together, of friends, and said I thought that only 
from solitary striving does anything result anyway, then he said 
it, said: Non, c'est vrai, il n'est pas bien de faire des groupes, 
les amis s'empechent. II est mieux d'etre seul. Peut-etre avoir une 
femme parcequ'il faut avoir une femme) . . . something like 
that. Then I spoke of you, of Ruth, of how sad it is that you 
must leave her, he was silent for a while and said then, with 
wonderful seriousness he said it: ... Oui, il faut travailler, rien 
que travailler. Et il faut avoir patience. One should not think of 
wanting to make something, one should try only to build up one's 
own medium of expression and to say everything. One should 
work and have patience. Not look to right nor left. Should draw 
all of life into this circle, have nothing outside of this life. Rodin 
has done so. J'ai y donne ma jeunesse, he said. It is certainly so. 
One must sacrifice the other. Tolstoy's unedifying household, 
the discomfort of Rodin's rooms: it all points to the same thing: 
that one must choose either this or that. Either happiness or art. 
On doit trouver le bonheur dans son art ... R. too expressed it 
something like that. And indeed that is all so clear, so clear. The 
great men have all let their lives become overgrown like an old 
road and have carried everything into their art. Their lives are 
stunted like an organ they no longer need. 

. . . You see, Rodin has lived nothing that is not in his work. 


Thus it grew around him. Thus he did not lose himself; even in 
the years when lack of money forced him to unworthy work, he 
did not lose himself, because what he experienced did not remain 
a plan, because in the evenings he immediately made real what 
he had wanted during the day. Thus everything always became 
real. That is the principal thing not to remain with the dream, 
with the intention, with the being-in-the-mood, but always for- 
cibly to convert it all into things. As Rodin did. Why has he pre- 
vailed? Not because he found approbation. His friends are few, 
and he is, as he says, on the Index. But his work was there, an 
enormous, grandiose reality, which one cannot get away from. 
With it he wrested room and right for himself. One can imagine 
a man who tad felt, wanted all that in himself, and had waited 
for better times to do it. Who would respect him; he would be 
an aging fool who had nothing more to hope for. But to make, to 
make is the thing. And once something is there, ten or twelve 
things are there, sixty or seventy little records about one, all made 
now out of this, now out of that impulse, then one has already 
won a piece of ground on which one can stand upright. Then one 
no longer loses oneself. When Rodin goes about among his things, 
one feels how youth, security, and new work flow into him 
continually from them. He cannot be confused. His work stands 
like a great angel beside him and protects him ... his great 
work! . . . 

I 37 3 

To Clara Rilke Paris, u rue Toullier 

September n, 1902 

... [in Meudon] I sat all day in the garden in a quiet spot 
before which the distance is magnificently opened up, had a box 
of newspapers in front of me, and read the marked passages 
about Rodin. He has this whole material together, but it doesn't 
contain much, no more than was finally collected in La Plume. 
We again took dejeuner together, and afterward there was a good 
hour of serious conversation when the others had risen. It is quite 


wonderfully reassuring when he speaks, answers, judges. He is so 
tremendously balanced, his words go so confidently, and even 
those that come all alone don't falter and hesitate. Then I stayed 
on until after five in the garden over my work and then went into 
the Meudon wood where it was cool and lonely. When I came out 
again, the houses were shining on the slopes, the green of the 
vineyards was undulating and dark, and the skies were wide and 
filled with stillness. The bells were ringing and spreading out 
high up and nestling into the narrow Val Fleury and were 
everywhere in every stone and in the hand of every child. For a 
long time I haven't felt land, sky, and distance thus. As if I had 
sat for a year in a city or in a prison that is how I was thankful 
to these things for their loneliness and moved by every little leaf 
that took part, subservient and still, as the smallest member in the 
greatness of this evening. Very, very near I was to you. I went 
on for a long time looking over at the house with the steep roof 
and at the hall beside it in which lives an ineffable world, a world 
that has many hours like this evening. Then I rode heavily back 
into the city. Oh, these heavy summer evenings! They aren't at 
all as in the open any more: walled up in odors and respirations. 
Heavy and fearful as under heavy earth. I sometimes press my 
face against the grating of the Luxembourg in order to feel a 
little distance, stillness, and moonlight but there too is the same 
heavy air, heavier still from the scents of the many too many 
flowers they have crowded together into the constraint of the 
beds. ... All that can make one very fearful. . . . And if you 
are glad now and happy at the liberation, never forget that you 
are going toward difficult days and that there will perhaps be 
no hour for a long time when you will have the courage to buy 
yourself a rose. This city is very big and full to the brim of sad- 
ness. And you will be alone and poor in it and very unhappy 
unless from the first hour on you cultivate through your work 
a happiness, a stillness, a strength. . . . Heavy your life will 
be. ... But it is true: it will then be your own heaviness that 
you have to carry, the heaviness of your heart, of your longing, 

_ 87 

the burden of your work. And therefore be happy, deep inside, 
behind words and thoughts rejoice . . . 

To Auguste Rodin n rue Toullier, Paris 

[in French] September u, 1902 

My dear Master, 

It doubtless seems somewhat strange that I am writing you, 
since (in the greatness of your generosity) you have given me 
the possibility of seeing you so often. But always in your presence 
I feel the imperfection of my language like a sickness that sepa- 
rates me from you even at the moment when I am very near. 

Therefore in the solitude of my room I spend my time pre- 
paring the words I want to say to you next day, but then, when 
the time comes, they are dead and, beset by new sensations, I 
lose all means of expressing myself. 

Sometimes I feel the spirit of the French language, and one eve- 
ning, walking in the Luxembourg Gardens I composed the fol- 
lowing verses which are not translated from German, and which 
came to me by I don't know what secret path, in this form: 

Ce sont les jours ou les fontaines vides 
mortes de faim retombent de 1'automne, 
et on devine de toutes les cloches qui sonnent, 
les levres f aites des metaux timides. 

Les capitales sont indiff erentes. 
Mais les soirs inattendus qui viennent 
font dans le pare un crepuscule ardent, 
et aux canaux avec les eaux si lentes 
ils donnent une reve v6nitienne . . . 
et une solitude aux amants . . . 

Why do I write you these verses? Not because I dare to believe 
that they are good; but it is the desire to draw near to you that 
guides my hand. You are the only man in the world who, full of 


equilibrium and force, is building himself in harmony with his 
work. And if that work, which is so great, so just, has for me be- 
come an event which I could tell of only in a voice trembling with 
awe and homage, it is also, like you yourself, an example given to 
my life, to my art, to all that is most pure in the depths of my 

It was not only to do a study that I came to be with you, it 
was to ask you: how must one live? And you replied: by work- 
ing. And I well understand. I feel that to work is to live without 
dying. I am full of gratitude and joy. For since my earliest youth 
I have wanted nothing but that. And I have tried it. But my work, 
because I loved it so much, has become during these years some- 
thing solemn, a festival connected with rare inspirations; and there 
were weeks when I did nothing but wait with infinite sadness for 
the creative hour. It was a life full of abysses. I anxiously avoided 
every artificial means of evoking the inspirations, I began to 
abstain from wine (which I have done for several years), I tried 
to bring my life close to Nature itself. . . . But in all this which 
was doubtless reasonable, I didn't have the courage to bring back 
the distant inspirations by working. Now I know that it is the 
only way of keeping them. And it is the great rebirth of my life 
and of my hope that you have given me. And that is also the 
case with my wife; last year we had rather serious financial wor- 
ries, and they haven't yet been removed: but I think now that 
diligent work can disarm even the anxieties of poverty. My wife 
has to leave our little child, and yet she thinks more calmly and 
impartially of that necessity since I wrote her what you said: 
"Travail et patience." I am very happy that she will be near you, 
near your great work. One cannot lose oneself near you. . . . 

I want to see if I can find a living in some form here in Paris, 
(I need only a little for that). If it is possible, I shall stay. And 
it would be a great happiness for me. Otherwise, if I cannot suc- 
ceed, I beg you to help my wife as you helped me by your work 
and by your word and by all the eternal forces of which you 
are the Master. 

It was yesterday in the silence of your garden that I found 

myself. And now the noise of the immense city has become more 
remote and there is a deep stillness about my heart where your 
words stand like statues. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Paris 

September 26, 1902 

. . . This last week, every day from ten o'clock until five in 
the afternoon, I have been in the Bibliotheque Nationale and 
have read many books and seen many reproductions of cathe- 
drals of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. My dear, that was a 
great, great art. The more one concerns oneself with its creations, 
the more deeply one feels the value and exquisiteness of the work: 
for these cathedrals, these mountains and mountain ranges of 
the Middle Ages, would never have been finished if they had had 
to grow out of inspirations. One day had to come like another and 
set to work, and if each one wasn't an inspiration, still each was 
a road to it. Everything has already been said about these great 
churches; Victor Hugo has written a few wonderful pages about 
Notre-Dame de Paris, and yet these cathedrals still have their 
effect, strangely alive, unbetrayed, mysterious an effect greater 
than words can tell. ... I think they are in the midst of this 
great city like a forest or like the sea; a bit of Nature in this city 
in which the gardens are Art. They are solitude and stillness, 
refuge and quiet in the change and jumble of these streets. They 
are the future as they are the past; everything else runs, flows, 
races and falls . . . they tower and wait. Notre Dame grows 
with every day; the more often one returns to it, the greater one 
finds it. At sunset almost every day I go past there at the hour 
when the Seine is like gray silk into which the lights are falling 
like polished gems. Then I am also looking for paths to an- 
tiquity. I have seen wonderfully beautiful things in the Louvre, 
and many I understand better now, although I am just at the very, 
very beginning. 

The Venus of Milo is too modern for me. But the Nike of 


Samothrace, the Goddess of Victory on the ship's hull with the 
wonderful movement and wide sea-wind in her garment is a 
miracle to me and like a whole world. That is Greece. That is 
shore, sea and light, courage and victory. Then on the gravestones, 
there are modelings of a wonderful land, profiles and hands, 
hands, groups of hands which are felt quite incomparably deeply 
and artistically and almost: wisely. And then Tanagra. That is a 
spring of imperishable life! 

And with all this, Botticelli, the glorious frescoes opposite the 
Nike of Samothrace, and Leonardo; again and again Leonardo. 
Rodin I haven't seen for a long time. He is working on a por- 
trait, is very deep in this work, does everything else as though in 
a dream. And I have the feeling that one disturbs him even on his 
Saturday. ... Of the journey he doesn't speak, so you will 
probably still find him when you come. And now you are coming 
soon, aren't you? I am waiting. 

C 4*1 

To Clara Rilke n rue Toullier, Paris 

September 27, morning [1902] 

. . . One can learn much here, I think, but one must have a 
certain maturity, otherwise one sees nothing, on the one hand 
because there is too much here, and then because such a variety 
of things speak simultaneously. From all sides. I have already 
told you that I am trying to get closer in feeling to antiquity and 
am even succeeding now and then in finding a new and deep joy 
in its things. Rodin has a tiny plaster cast, a tiger (antique), in 
his studio in the rue de TUniversite, which he values very highly: 
Cest beau, c'est tout ... he says of it. And from this little 
plaster cast I saw what he means, what antiquity is and what links 
him to it. There, in this animal, is the same lively feeling in the 
modeling, this little thing (it is no higher than my hand is wide, 
and no longer than my hand) has hundreds of thousands of sides 
like a very big object, hundreds of thousands of sides which are 
all alive, animated, and different. And that in plaster! And with 

this the expression of the prowling stride is intensified to the high- 
est degree, the powerful planting of the broad paws, and at the 
same time, that caution in which all strength is wrapped, that 
noiselessness. . . . You will see this little thing, and we mustn't 
fail to pay a visit to the original either (a little bronze) , which is 
in the medal cabinet of the Bibliotheque Nationale. When one 
comes from such things to the sculpture of the twelfth and 
thirteenth centuries, one often misses there that peaceful and 
quiet completedness and animation of the surface and finds only 
the same force of expression and something new, conscientious, 
and thorough that seeks for types and generalizes the model. And 
yet the surface here in these things has become, through the in- 
fluence of time, of the wind and the rain, the sun and the night of 
centuries, just as alive, just as plastic, and without the slightest 

The Trocadero Museum is very interesting; it contains tolerably 
good plaster casts and copies of old portals from Provence, from 
Chartres, from Rouen and other cities, fragments, details, col- 
umns, in which one can see how the whole of life with all its 
things and figures passed through the hand of the sculptor into 
the stone, as if it belonged there. One feels, even more than in 
the Renaissance, how people's eyes were opened, how they sud- 
denly saw everything and tried their hand at everything. And 
Rodin has many connections with that too. I am convinced, for 
example, that the flowers on the pedestal of the woman's bust in 
the Luxembourg came into his sculpture the way they came into 
the works of the masters of the twelfth century. As a thing that 
was also an experience for him, also driven along in the great 
stream that is perpetually pouring into his art. 

Today I will try again to see him. Then I go mostly by the little 
steamer on the Seine as far as the Pont de Jena (opposite the 
Trocadero), that is the shortest way from whatever quarter I 
happen to be in. The afternoons now are often beautiful and 
just slightly veiled and withdrawn; and then it has such a gentle 
way of becoming evening. One might say there is a moment when 
the hours cease going, one no longer feels their step, they mount 

upon some animal which carries them along on its broad back. 
So quietly they bear themselves, and only beneath them is some- 
thing big and dark that moves, slips away, takes them with it. 
Until five o'clock I am for the most part in the Bibliotheque 
Nationale, then they close there, and I go and experience this 
growing into evening somewhere on the Seine bridge, or on the 
Quai; sometimes I get as far as the Luxembourg Gardens, which 
even then are beginning to grow dusky, gently warding off the 
darkness with their many red flowers. Then suddenly from some- 
where a drum-roll begins, rolling up and down, a soldier all in 
red passes through the avenues. And then everywhere people 
emerge, happy, laughing, high-spirited people, serious, sad, si- 
lent, and lonely people, people of all kinds, of today, of yester- 
day and day before yesterday. Some who have sat for many hours 
on a remote bench, like people who wait and into whose brains 
it is now being drummed that they have nothing to wait for, and 
then some who, as long as it is day, live, eat, sleep, and read a 
newspaper on the benches: all manner of people, faces, and hands 
many hands pass by then. It is something like a Last Judgment. 
And behind those who pass, the garden grows ever bigger: big. 
And Paris becomes close, light, noisy, and begins again one of 
its insatiable nights stimulated by spice, wine, music, and the 
clothes of women. . . . 

To Otto Modersohn Paris 

New Year's Eve, 1902 

My dear Otto Modersohn, my intention of laying the mono- 
graph on your Christmas table has been badly thwarted. Two 
days before the twenty-fourth, I learned that the publishers of 
this book (because of technical difficulties unknown to me) will 
not finish printing before January. I am very sorry about this, for 
I had long been looking forward with joy to sending you the 
monograph for the Christmas celebration in your dear lonely 
country. Even to the last minute I hoped to, and now I miss the 


joy this gift would have given me, everywhere. I have in mind 
your birthday and wish Velhagen may have finished by then. 

So we did nothing further on Christmas; for it was no proper, 
vajid festival for us either, only a kind of quiet day of remem- 
brance that passed gently away for us in solitude. Of our dear 
child very good news comes to us: that made our hours bright and 
gave them a good confidence. But of you two also we thought 
with warm wishes, on this holiday eve, and again today as a multi- 
farious year finally dies out. We wish you and your dear wife may 
in these hours begin a good year well, a rich year for your art so 
full of future, dear Otto Modersohn, for each of you and for your 
life together, in short: in every sense and by every standard a 
good year. 

When on this last dying day I look over the past, I am impelled 
to say to you, dear Otto Modersohn, that to the best memories 
and attainments it has brought and vouchsafed belongs the close 
relationship I have found with your art. I have received so much 
that is good and great from you that my gratitude will not fade; 
the path through your work led me at many places nearer to my- 
self, much became clear to me through it, much is thereby linked 
together for me forever, and I can well say when I recognized 
it in those spring days: I grew along with it for a stretch. All the 
blessing of my loyal trust upon your further path! 

In the meantime my little book dealing with Rodin's work has 
also been finished. It may even come out in the first half of 1903. 
I was deep in work that is why I simply haven't written. I really 
wanted to tell you about Paris. Dear Otto Modersohn, stick to 
your country! Paris (we say it to each other daily) is a difficult, 
difficult, anxious city. And the beautiful things there are here do 
not quite compensate, even with their radiant eternity, for what 
one must suffer from the cruelty and confusion of the streets 
and the monstrosity of the gardens, people, and things. To my 
anguished feeling, Paris has something unspeakably dismaying. 
It has lost itself utterly, it is tearing like a star off its course 
toward some dreadful collision. So must the cities have been of 
which the Bible tells that the wrath of God rose up behind them 

94 _ 

to overwhelm them and to shatter them. To all that, Rodin is a 
great, quiet, powerful contradiction. Time flows off him, and as 
he works thus, all, all the days of his long life, he seems in- 
violable, sacrosanct, and almost anonymous. He and his work 
are of the same nature and essence as the old cathedrals, as the 
things in the Louvre and: as the days with you, Otto Modersohn, 
in your big, simple, grand country that you have earned for your- 
self with lively love. I always feel, when I think of you, that you 
have everything there and that if sometime you come again to 
Paris, it will be only for a short time. For whoever really has a 
home must care for it and love it, and he should go from it but 
rarely. The world is not outside for him; he must wait in pa- 
tience and work for it to come to him from all distances and to 
fill the things of his home with all manifoldness, greatness, and 
splendor. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Hotel Florence, Viareggio presso Pisa 

March 27, 1903 

... I want and need these days only for rest. When I have 
that, something heavy begins to fall off me, very slowly; but if I 
move too soon, it quickly climbs back up on me again. 

And yet gently, very gently I am already beginning sometimes 
to feel a benefit I haven't known in years ... no, no, dear, I 
wiM 720* worry and will think only good things. When anxious, 
uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea 
drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with 
its noise and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is 
bewildered and confused. And mudi is so. I feel that I must build 
my powers anew from the ground up, but I feel too that this 
difficult thing is possible here, if I have patience and faith. . . . 


I 43 3 

To Friedrich Huch (Hotel Florence) 

Viareggio presso Pisa (Italy) 
April i, 1903 

. . . Dear Friedrich Huch, there is something in me that gladly 
lets itself be spoiled; and spoiled (perhaps in the not good sense) 
I was by your Peter Michel, which was so entirely joy and 
pleasure to me, along with all the fine shocks of surprise. And 
this softening must have made me sensitive to any other air, so 
that I at once cried draught when the healthy winds of some 
transition blew in your new book. I am no critic, and I will not, 
will not (for* heaven's sake, for heaven's very great sake!) will 
not be one; I measure a work of art by the happiness it gives me, 
and because I believe that my understanding of happiness (of real 
happiness, that broadens) is ripening with life, becoming greater, 
more ambitious and at the same time more grateful, I am of the 
opinion that this measure for works of art could in time acquire 
something just and clarifying, if I grow. And perhaps it is so. 
But you see (since the book drifted into your hands) how even 
to the Worpswede artists I came not as a critic but by the paths 
of a personal and cautious love that was happy in being allowed 
to go to all those places where before it lonely joys of growing 
blossomed, smiled, and lived. But in my long letter to you, Fried- 
rich Huch, there was something (now I believe I know it in my 
heart's core), something, perhaps a trifle only, of the critic's in- 
solence, rashness, and hypocrisy, something that doesn't belong 
to me and that, even if it should look brilliant and of .value, I 
would want to reject in any case. And that made mischief. Had I 
the letter now, I could indicate the place where it got in, that 
little grain of f oreignness that spread its poisonous smell over the 
whole letter. But how it could have got in? Perhaps I wrote the 
letter too soon, it ran along, so to speak, ahead of my own words 
which were not yet done; perhaps the reason lies in the bad state 
of mind I was in this winter in Paris (with the heaviest of all cities 
on my heart). Finally, almost simultaneously with the new year, 


influenzalike torments began to set in that kept me for months 
equally far removed from sickness and from health, upon a nar- 
row strip of dizzy discomfort, to walk on which was a continual 
anxiety and a desperate impatience. In the end (although it was 
difficult to accomplish this with my always too limited means) I 
came via Turin and Genoa to this little place, which, from by- 
gone happy days, I have honored with something like filial 
love, adorning it in my grateful memory from year to year with 
all the jewelry of my wishes and all the treasures of my remem- 
brance. So that it was not without danger to come and to make 
clear to an unsuspecting reality here that it would have to raise 
itself to the high level of my grateful imagination. Meanwhile 
the disappointment has not been too violent, no greater than with 
almost any seeing-again, and if I cannot yet rejoice as I once re- 
joiced in the wideness of the woods, in the size of the sea, and 
the grace of all this glory, that is because of my hesitant health, 
which still lacks the strength for joy, that superabundance that 
is necessary in order to take heart, beyond the little hindrances, 
in the great glories. . . . 


To Ellen Key Hotel Florence, Viareggio presso Pisa (Italy) 

April 3, 1903 

How shall I thank you, dear Ellen Key, for your two so inex- 
pressibly loving letters? I would like- most to write you a long, 
long letter, a whole book, and tell you how everything was, how 
my childhood was, my difficult, difficult childhood. But I cannot 
now! Finally after a difficult decision I have left Paris, wanted 
first to stay on the Riviera di Levante which, however, I found 
overcrowded like a full close room. So I pushed still farther to 
this quiet village, which lies between Pisa and the marble moun- 
tains of Carrara, by a lively, spirited sea. In summer it is a big 
society seaside resort but now nothing more than a little town 
with empty streets, enclosed by pine woods, and wide open be- 


fore a mighty sea. I was here once five years ago, and those were 
days full of benefit that were given me here then, days of sun, 
that were the advent of many songs. That is why I trust this place 
and want to try to live here for a while. 

You too are under way in the meantime, carrying your dear, 
towering and summoning word to many who hunger for it. My 
thoughts and wishes accompany you on this trip, and I send 
this letter after you and: the Rodin book that now at last has 
come out. May it give you joy. You won't believe how happy I 
am about your understanding, your encouragement, and your 
love, and how I return all this to you from out of my deepest 
depths, dear friend. I feel as if my books had never, never yet 
been so well off as with you. Rarely has anyone received them 
thus, so spoiled them with warmth. 

I thank you! 

Your second letter was sent after me here from Paris. I had al- 
ready gone when it came. But my wife opened it there and con- 
veyed everything to the Bojers that you wanted to have known. 
She sees the Bojers often, is very busy, and I have good news 
of her. 

Yes, dear Frau Ellen Key, you shall have pictures of us as soon 
as possible; we have, I believe, a few more copies to give away t 
and we also want you to know us soon! Ruth's little picture will 
naturally come too. Should there be no more copies of the last 
pictures, I shall have some taken: then you must be patient a few 
more weeks. 

It will be harder with the old books; I believe that of most of 
them I myself have no more copies, and the publishers no longer 
exist! And those of the old books that I may possess are still lying 
in boxes in Worpswede, and I cannot get at them. But Wilhelm 
Michel who wrote the article in Zeit has some more material;, 
and I will look and see to it that in time you come to know 
everything; I am so glad and happy that you want to. 

Oh, and to tell you otherwise who I am; that is difficult. I have 
a hope that we will meet sometime soon (and perhaps it will be 


in Italy! ) : then I will tell you much about myself, to make up, 
in a way, for what you really should have known long ago: for 
I feel as if you had always been close to me! 

Yes, my family is old. As early as 1376 it belonged to the 
ancient Carinthian nobility, later it emigrated (at least in part) 
to Saxony and Brandenburg, and in the seventeenth and in the 
first decades of the eighteenth century it blossoms richly into 
three powerful branches. Then comes the decline, lawsuits that 
wipe out the entire fortune and loss of all estates and lands and: 
poverty, almost obscurity. After almost a century, which passed 
in darkness, my great-grandfather again came into power. He was 
lord of Kamenitz an der Linde (a castle in Bohemia, whither the 
family had emigrated in the anxious transition period). He col- 
lected the old traditions, he rescued from oblivion what was on 
the point of dying away, the family's ancient name. But imme- 
diately behind him the depths close again. My grandfather, who 
still spent his childhood at Kamenitz, was later steward of some- 
one else's estate. My father began the career of officer (following 
a family tradition) but then switched over to that of official. He 
is a railroad official, holds a fairly high post in a private railroad, 
which he has earned with infinite conscientiousness. He lives in 
Prague. There I was born. Twenty-seven years ago. (In the 
Catholic baptism I received the name Rene Maria.) Of my 
mother's family I know nothing. Her father was a wealthy mer- 
chant whose fortune went to pieces on a prodigal son. My child- 
hood home was a cramped rented apartment in Prague; it was very 
sad. My parents' marriage was already faded when I was born. 
When I was nine years old, the discord broke out openly, and 
my mother left her husband. She was a very nervous, slender, 
dark woman, who wanted something indefinite of life. And so 
she remained. Actually these two people ought to have under- 
stood each other better, for they both attach an infinite amount 
of value to externals; our little household, which was in reality 
middle class, was supposed to have the appearance of plenty, our 
clothes were supposed to deceive people, and certain lies passed 
as a matter of course. I don't know how it was with me. I had to 


wear very beautiful clothes and went about until school years 
like a little girl; I believe my mother played with me as with a 
big doll. For the rest, she was always proud when she was called 
"Miss." She wanted to pass for young, sickly, and unhappy. And! 
unhappy she probably was too. I believe we all were. 

Soon after she left the house, I was put in one of our big 
officers' training establishments. I was ten years old. After the 
worst coddling, I (who had never known brothers, sisters, or 
playmates hitherto) found myself among fifty boys who all met 
me with the same scornful hostility. Noncommissioned officers 
trained us. What I suffered in those five years (for I remained 
that long in spite of sickness, in spite of opposition in the place) 
is a life in itself: a long, difficult life. Even today, my parents 
still suspect nothing of it. They could not understand it. When I 
came out and took off the uniform, I knew that they were quite 
remote from me. And that now manifested itself over and over 
again. They put me in a commercial school, in circumstances that 
nearly brought about my downfall, until a brother of my father 
(I was already sixteen years old then) had me take school studies 
privately. By expending all my powers, I got over the eight classes 
in three years and passed the final examination. Then I was tired. 
There came a time when I hated my parents, especially my 
mother. Over the years I got rid of this error. I see my mother 
sometimes and feel beyond all strangeness that she is very un- 
happy and very alone. And to my father I would like to show a 
great, great deal of love. He is of an inexpressible kindness, and 
my life, which he cannot understand, is a subject of touching,, 
daily anxiety for him. I know that he has an infinite longing ta 
know who I am and what I am doing, but, as we are poor, he sees 
above all only the one thing: that I cannot earn my own bread, and 
therefore he holds no confidence in my ability or has to keep 
giving it up. And I am suffering, suffering more and more from 
the fact that I still have to live on him, although I know that it 
is difficult for him: but I find no other expedient. 

For what is mine no one gives me bread, and I know that I 
haven't powers enough to divide myself into one who earns arid 


one who creates. And even if I had all the powers in the world, 
I would have to give all my powers to the important thing in me: 
it has a right to that. Isn't that so?! Tell me, my friend! The last 
two years since my marriage I really have tried to earn, con- 
tinually, day by day: not much has come of it on the one hand, 
and on the other hand in so doing I have forfeited so much. Do 
you know, I am sometimes afraid that I have lost everything in 
the process! I did know that I can write only out of deepest 
necessity but, when I wanted to earn by my writing, I counted 
on this deepest necessity coming over me often. But, will you 
believe me, dear Ellen Key: since there has been an external com- 
pulsion, this necessity has come more and more rarely, and re- 
cently it has left off almost entirely. You cannot imagine what 
I am suffering and what I have suffered all these last months; I 
know I am not exhausted; but the little and continual thoughts 
of every day and its most unimportant things confuse me so that 
I can no longer recollect my own. How shall I say that to you: 
Before I used to hear all my voices in me; now it is as if someone 
had closed the window toward the garden in which my songs live: 
far, far away I hear something and listen and can no longer dis- 
tinguish it. My head is full of ridiculous additions. And hardly 
have I been paid for one job and am thinking that I may now 
collect myself for my own work, when it is already time again 
to think of the next and of where it is to be found and by what 
efforts obtained. On that my nervous strength is slipping away, 
my time, my courage, and I fail to catch up with myself day after 
day, and am somewhere out of reach, full of flowers past their 
bloom, whose fading scents fill me with dead weight. It isn't 
so new for me, indeed, this feeling. My whole art has grown up 
from its first day against opposition: against the laughter and 
scorn of the noncommissioned officers, against my father, against 
all about me; but this time it is more dangerous than before. For, 
with this idea and necessity of earning, the opposition, which 
until now always came from others, from outside, has come into 
me myself I carry it with me everywhere, I cannot elude it, and 
that is why I am so fearful for everything important in me. Bound- 


lessly fearful. Now I have journeyed here in order to recover 
and collect myself, in order perhaps to come to myself again in 
this lovely place which is protected by a good past; two weeks 
have now passed here, I am not yet well and yet already I ought 
really to begin to think, to be concerned again about the future. 
. . . And the thought of money, which used not to exist so iso- 
latedly for me, has conjured up other worries: this, for example, 
that all of a sudden I know now that my education is not suf- 
ficient for a single, definite position, scarcely for a journalistic 
occupation. And of that particularly I have a nameless horror! 
I feel too clearly the apparent kinship between literature and jour- 
nalism, of which one is an art and so looks to eternity, and the 
other a trade in the midst of the times: more in the times than 
any other. And I am so far away from the times, from all their 
wishes and all their successes; I cannot participate in them. I have 
nothing in them, not even a home. I live not in dreams but in con- 
templation of a reality that is perhaps the future. Only in Russia, 
on my two extensive journeys through that land, have I felt 
home; there I was somehow at home, perhaps, because there one 
notices so little of the times, of the temporal, because there it is 
always future already and every passing hour closer to eternity. I 
always thought I would have to live there sometime. . . . 

But now I scarcely have plans any more; now it seems to me 
an infinite presumption to have plans, when the very next stage 
is so dismaying, so dark, and so full of tiniest questions. It seems 
as if I were in the midst of nets; I feel these nets on my hands 
with every gesture that would arise freely. 

One day I think I must make this gesture in order at last to 
be able to live; the next day I believe I should somehow finish 
off my studies; then again I look for some person who will under- 
stand my need without taking me for a beggar: which I most 
fear. And finally no time is left for anything, and when an in- 
disposition comes I have scarcely enough resistance left to avert 
it among all these pursuing cares, and so everything draws in 
about me and sets itself against the flowers in me. . . . 

How is that to get better? I have written eleven or twelve 


books and have received almost nothing for them, only four of 
them were paid for at all. The rest of the publishers took my 
books without paying. The Worpswede monograph was a com- 
mission that was well paid, but the Rodin book, in which I have 
lived for months, brought only 150 marks! And still there is 
something in my innermost soul that does not at all want these 
books to become known; a longing to remain nameless fills me 
to the brim, and I would gladly get lost behind my songs like 
some bygone people. . . . But that again is "imprudent," as my 
father would say. ... 

Why am I saying all this to you, dear, dear Frau Ellen Key? To 
*whom am I to say it? My dear young wife knows it and is bearing 
it loyally with me and in addition is bearing her own lot which 
is similar and is bearing the separation from our little child for 
the sake of her serious work. But the burden over me has be- 
come so great, and I would like so much to speak of it to a near 
person and ask this person, who understands and loves me: do 
you think there is a way out? Must a miracle happen for me to 
find quiet a while and hear what is mine ringing again; and if a 
miracle is necessary for it: shall I live and believe that it will come? 
Or what shall I do? Am I wrong to be galled by longing day and 
night for what is important in me, since the unimportant is call- 
ing me with the voice of life? But no, I believe that is not the 
voice of life. For I wanted to tell you this too, dear friend: I love 
life, and I believe in it! Everything in me believes in it. You have 
felt that my letters lie in the shadow of some bitter sorrow, and 
that is why there are in your last letter those beautiful, good, bell- 
pure words affirming life. As a child, when everyone was always 
unkind to me, when I felt so infinitely forsaken, so utterly astray 
in an alien world, there may have been a time when I longed to be 
gone. But then, when people remained alien to me, I was drawn 
to things, and from them a joy breathed upon me, a joy in being 
that has always remained equally quiet and strong and in which 
there was never a hesitation or a doubt. In the military school, 
after long fearful battles, I abandoned the violent Catholic piety 
of childhood, made myself free of it in order to be even more, 


even more comfortlessly alone; but from things, from their 
patient bearing and enduring, a new, greater and more devout 
love came to me later, some kind of faith that knows no fear and 
no bounds. In this faith life is also a part. Oh, how I believe in 
it, in life. Not that which makes up our time, but that other, the 
life of little things, the life of animals and of the great plains. That 
life which endures through the millenniums, apparently without 
interest, and yet in the balance of its powers full of motion and 
growth and warmth. That is why cities weigh on me so. That is 
why I love to take long walks barefoot, in order to miss no 
graia of sand and to give my body the whole world in many 
forms as feeling, as event, as kinship. That is why I live on 
vegetables, where possible, to be close to what is simple, to an 
awareness of life intensified by nothing foreign; that is why no 
wine goes into me: because I desire that only my own juices shall 
speak and stir and shall have bliss, as in children and animals, from 
deep within themselves! . . . And that is why I also want to put 
all pride far from me, not to raise myself above the very least 
animal and not to hold myself grander than a stone. But to be 
what I am, to live what was set for me to live, to want to voice 
what no one else can voice, to bear the blossoms that are com- 
manded of my heart: that I want and surely that cannot be 

Dear friend, I have such difficult, such difficult days. But also- 
it cannot become more difficult, and perhaps, when you read all 
this, you will find some word on which I can raise myself up a tiny 
bit. My father in his dear, ready kindness, has held out the 
prospect, if it just won't work any longer, of procuring me an 
official position in Prague. Of course, he doesn't sense that it 
would be a new "military school" for me. But I am afraid of this 
rescue as of a prison. I know I shall die if I have to write figures 
more than three-fourths of the day in cold office rooms; I know 
that all, all will then be over and forever. And I am namelessly 
afraid of it! 

So often I cannot help thinking of Ellen Ljunggren. Will she put 
through what she wanted? (Have you news of her?) Ought I 


too to do something of the sort? For two or three years, only 
earn and then . . , but it seems to me that I have already been 
away much, much too long from what is mine: there was so 
much that still wanted to come! . . . 

Now you know much of me, dear Frau Ellen Key, more than 
you wanted to know: forgive the presumption that lies in this 
confidence; I didn't know, when I began this letter, that I would 
tell you all this; it came over me in a way, it dragged me with it; 
where was I to leave off? 

And then, too, you would continually have felt on each of my 
letters the pressure, the shadow of some strange thing you didn't 
know about. Now you will understand everything, and that 
you should. 

In one of your good letters, you pictured my mother as a 
beautiful and distinguished woman whose hands came to her 
child from among flowers; how often have I longed for such 
a woman; for a mother who is greatness, kindness, quietude, and 
beneficence ... in my family's past there must have been such 
women, for at times I feel something of their presence, like the 
light of a distant star, like a dark glance, resting on me. But to 
you I have written as I would have written to a mother like that, 
or to an older sister who knows more of life and of people than I. 

Accept it in your great, great kindness! 

And take at the same time the Rodin book. And along with it 
one more request; I am putting in a second copy of the Rodin 
book; will you, if it does not cause you any inconvenience at all, 
see that it reaches the hands of Georg Brandes? I do not know 
his address, and I would like so much to have him surely get it. 
(My two last books Juncker, I think, sent him, but I do not 
know whether he received them.) But only if it is no trouble 
to do so. And thank you! 

Are you still having snow and winter now? And how will 
Easter morning break then? When does spring begin in your 
homeland? I think of you, full of love, full of gratitude, full of 


To Clara Rilke Hotel de Florence, Viareggio presso Pisa (Italy) 

Wednesday, April 8, 1903 

. . . here it is again a day full of unrest and violence. Storm 
against storm over the sea. Fugitive light. Night in the wood. 
And the great noise over all. I was in the wood all morning, and, 
after four or five glaring days, the darkness that lived there was 
pleasing to all the senses and the coolness and the almost sharp 
wind. You must imagine this wood as very, very tall-trunked, 
dark, straight pine trunks and high overhead their spreading 
branches. The ground all dark with needles and covered with very 
tall prickly broom bushes that are all full of yellow blossoms, 
blossom upon blossom. And today this yellow shone in the cool, 
almost nightlike dusk and swayed and nodded, and the wood 
was lit from below and very lonely. I walked (after I had taken 
my sun bath and gone barefoot a little) back and forth there 
for hours and thought a great deal. ... I can't say what it will 
come to, or whether the Spanish plan will materialize or some 
other, perhaps not yet mentionable at all. Nor is there any use 
talking about it now; I think someday it will be known and done. 
And knowing and doing will be one. So much is certain, that 
first of all I shall return to Paris, perhaps to write the Carriere 
book; it still seems to me that Paris must give me one more 
work. . . . Everyone must be able to find in his work the center 
of his life and from there be able to grow out in radiate form 
as far as he can. And in this no other person may watch him, his 
nearest and dearest particularly: for he may not even do so him- 
self. There is a kind of purity and virginity in it, in this looking 
away from oneself; it is as when one is drawing, one's gaze riveted 
on the object, interwoven with Nature, and the hand goes its 
way alone somewhere below, goes and goes, takes fright, falters, 
is happy again, goes and goes far below the face that stands above 
it like a star, not looking, only shining. It seems to me as if I 
had always created like that: my face gazing at far-off things, 


my hands alone. And so it must certainly be. So I shall again be- 
come in time; but for that I must remain as lonely as I am now, 
my loneliness must first be firm and secure again like an untrod- 
den wood that is not afraid of footsteps. It must lose all emphasis, 
every exceptional value, and every obligation. It must become 
everyday, the natural and daily; the thoughts that come, even 
the most fleeting, must find me all alone, then they will again 
make up their minds to trust me; there is nothing worse for me 
than to become unaccustomed to loneliness: and I almost was. 
That is why I have long ways to go now, day and night, back 
through all that is past and confused. And then, if I come to the 
crossroads and find again the place where I began to go astray, 
then I will begin work and way again, simply and seriously, like 
the beginner that I am. It is very big and festive in my heart when 
I think that we understand each other in this now and are of one 
mind in these dark riddles. I feel ... as if we had gone together 
through endless developments, through worlds, and worlds 
through us. ... 

. . . today a very dear letter came from Rodin (dictated), 
very warm and full of interest. ... I shall be so happy to see 
his new things: Oh how he grows and grows! (Hokusai, the 
great Japanese painter, said somewhere in speaking of the hun- 
dred views he painted of the mountain Fujiyama: "Cest a Tage 
de soixante-treize ans que j'ai compris k peu pres la forme et la 
nature vraie des oiseaux, des poissons et des plantes"). . . . 

To CldTd Rilke Hotel de Florence, Viareggio presso Pisa (Italy) 

April 24, 1903 (Friday) 

... It was well I didn't leave on Wednesday, for the weather 
these days has been so unspeakable, so unruly with storms and 
downpours that fell thick as webs, half days and whole nights 
long, that I would not like to have been in a foreign city and par- 
ticularly in one that derives its beauty from the sun and that, all 
adjusted to southern days, wants to stand by a blue sea, but not 

by one that fetches all its deepest, oldest, and most forgotten 
colors out of the depths, spreads them out and then indignantly, 
from enormous wave bellies, throws over them the yellow-white 
sheepskins of their foam. Nor is it good to be on the train in 
such days of upheaval, when, instead of at least staying always 
in one rain, one must ride through the rains of all those many 
little stations which stand there dripping so peevishly and looking 
twice as dirty as usual. 

So it was all right, although I am a little impatient and would 
gladly be gone already, particularly since with this storm it isn't 
comfortable even here, and is variable and noisy; not even in 
the wood was it still today, the sea has come much closer, and 
the wind snatches its noise in by the hair and winds it about the 
trees, which are themselves full of rushing and excitement, and 
as if they had already had to watch and blow like that all night. 

Yes, it is time to come home. . . . 

Here I am still, now in Niels Lyhne, now in the Bible, and 
much in your dear, dear letters that are for me the dearest of 
all. In my own books, too, I am finding much; am going about in 
the Stories of God and rejoice in much and forgive them what 
doesn't seem good to me for the sake of the rest which is essen- 
tial and beautiful and which also will never be different. Isn't it 
as if no one had ever read the book? I would it were all as good 
as the best in it; then it could be found later sometime like a 
beautiful old object. There wasn't enough patience in me when 
I shaped it, that is why it has so many blurted and uncertain 
places; but perhaps I shall come soon again to such a book, and 
then I will build it with all the reverence I have in my hands, and 
will not let go of any passage as long as it is less than I myself, 
and will make each into an angel and will let myself be over- 
come by him and force him to bend me although I have made 
him. . . 


To Lou Andreas-Salome Worpswede bei Bremen 

July 1 8, 1903 

I would like to tell you, dear Lou, that Paris was for me an 
experience similar to the military school; as a great fearful as- 
tonishment seized me then, so now again terror assailed me at 
everything that, as in an unspeakable confusion, is called life. 
Then, when I was a boy among boys, I was alone among them; 
and how alone I was this time among these people, how per- 
petually disowned by all I met; the carts drove right through 
me, and those that were hurrying made no detour around me but 
ran over me full of contempt, as over a bad place in which stag- 
nant water has collected. And often before going to sleep, I read 
the thirtieth chapter in the Book of Job, and it was all true of 
me, word for word. And in the night I got up and looked for 
my favorite volume of Baudelaire, the petits poemes en prose, 
and read aloud the most beautiful poem that bears the title: "A une 
heure du matin." Do you know it? It begins: Enfin! seul! on n'en- 
tend plus que le roulement de quelques fiacres attardes et ereintes. 
Pendant quelques heures nous possederons le silence, sinon le 
repos. Enfin! la tyrannic de la face humaine a disparu, et je 
ne souffrirai plus que par moi-meme. . . . And it ends grandly; 
stands up, stands and finishes like a prayer. A prayer of Baude- 
laire's; a real, simple prayer, made with his hands, awkward and 
beautiful as the prayer of a Russian. He had a long road to go 
to get there, Baudelaire, and he went on his knees and crawling. 
How far away from me he was in everything, one of the most 
alien to me; often I can scarcely understand him, and yet some- 
times deep in the night when I said his words after him like a 
child, then he was the person closest to me and lived beside me 
and stood pale behind the thin wall and listened to my voice 
falling. What a strange companionship was between us then, a 
sharing of everything, the same poverty and perhaps the same 

Oh a thousand hands have been building at my fear, and out of 


a remote village it has become a city, a big city, in which un- 
speakable things happen. It grew all the time and took the quiet 
green out of my feeling that no longer bears fruit. Even in West- 
erwede it was growing, and houses and streets arose out of the 
fearful circumstances and hours that passed there. And when Paris 
came, it quickly became very big. In August of last year I ar- 
rived there. It was the time when the trees in the city are withered 
without autumn, when the burning streets, expanded by the heat, 
will not end and one goes through smells as through many sad 
rooms. Then I went past the long hospitals whose gates stood 
wide open with a gesture of impatient and greedy compassion. 
When I passed by the Hotel Dieu for the first time, an open 
carriage was just driving in, in which a person hung, swaying 
with every movement, askew like a broken marionette, and with 
a bad sore on his long, gray, dangling neck. And what people I 
met after that, almost every day; fragments of caryatids on 
whom the whole pain still lay, the entire structure of a pain, 
under which they were living slow as tortoises. And they were 
passers-by among passers-by, left alone and undisturbed in their 
fate. At most one took them in as an impression and looked at 
them with calm, detached curiosity like a new kind of animal in 
whom want had developed special organs, organs of hunger and 
death. And they were wearing the comfortless, discolored mim- 
icry of the too great cities, and were holding out under the foot 
of each day that trod on them, like tough beetles, were enduring 
as if they still had to wait for something, twitching like bits of 
a big chopped-up fish that is already rotting but still alive. They 
were living, living on nothing, on dust, on soot, and on the filth 
on their surfaces, on what falls from the teeth of dogs, on any 
senselessly broken thing that anyone might still buy for some 
inexplicable purpose. Oh what kind of a world is that! Pieces, 
pieces of people, parts of animals, leftovers of things that have 
been, and everything still agitated, as though driven about helter- 
skelter in an eerie wind, carried and carrying, falling and over- 
taking each other as they fall. 
There were old women who set down a heavy basket on the 


ledge of some wall (very little women whose eyes were drying 
up like puddles), and when they wanted to grasp it again, out of 
their sleeves shoved forth slowly and ceremoniously a long, rusty 
hook instead of a hand, and it went straight and surely out to 
the handle of the basket. And there were other old women who 
went about with the drawers of an old night stand in their hands, 
showing everyone that twenty rusty pins were rolling around 
inside which they must sell. And once of an evening late in the 
fall, a little old woman stood next me in the light of a store win- 
dow. She stood very still, and I thought that like me she was busy 
looking at the objects displayed and hardly noticed her. Finally, 
however, her proximity made me uneasy, and I don't know why, 
I suddenly looked at her peculiarly clasped, worn-out hands. 
Very, very slowly an old, long, thin pencil rose out of those 
hands, it grew and grew, and it took a very long time until it 
was entirely visible, visible in all its wretchedness. I cannot say 
what produced such a terrible effect in this scene, but it seemed 
to me as if a whole destiny were being played out before me, a 
long destiny, a catastrophe that was working up frightfully to 
the moment when the pencil no longer grew and, slightly trenv 
bling, jutted out of the loneliness of those empty hands. I under- 
stood at last that I was supposed to buy it. ... 

And then those women who pass by one quickly in long vel- 
vet cloaks of the eighties, with paper roses on antiquated hats 
under which their hair hangs down looking as though it were 
melteo\ together. And all those people, men and women, who 
are in some transition, perhaps from madness to healing, perhaps 
also toward insanity; all with something infinitely fine in their 
faces, with a love, a knowledge, a joy, as with a light that is 
burning only a very little bit troubled and uneasy and could 
certainly be made clear again if someone would look and help. 
. . . But there is no one to help. No one to help those who are 
only just a very little bit perplexed, frightened, and intimidated; 
those who are just beginning to read things differently from the 
way they are meant; those who are still living in quite the same 
world, only that they walk just a little obliquely and therefore 


sometimes think that things are hanging over them; those who 
aren't at home in cities and lose themselves in them as in an evil 
wood without end ; all those to whom pain is happening every 
day, all those who can no longer hear their wills going in the 
noise, all those over whom fear has grown, why does no one help 
them in the big cities? 

Where are they going when they come so quickly through the 
streets? Where do they sleep, and if they cannot sleep, what goes 
on then before their sad eyes? What do they think about when 
they sit all day long in the open gardens, their heads sunk over 
their hands which have come together as from afar, each to hide 
itself in the other? And what kind of words do they say to them- 
selves when their lips summon up their strength and work? Do 
they still weave real words? . . . Are those still sentences they 
say, or is everything already crowding out of them pell-mell as 
out of a burning theater, everything that was spectator in them 
and actor, audience and hero? Does no one think of the fact that 
there is a childhood in them that is being lost, a strength that is 
sickening, a love that is falling? 

O Lou, I was so tormented day after day. For I understood all 
those people, and although I went around them in a wide arc, 
they had no secret from me. I was torn out of myself into their 
lives, right through all their lives, through all their burdened 
lives. I often had to say aloud to myself that I was not one of 
them, that I would go away again from that horrible city in 
which they will die; I said it to myself and felt that it was no 
deception. And yet, when I noticed how my clothes were be- 
coming worse and heavier from week to week, and saw how they 
were slit in many places, I was frightened and felt that I would 
belong irretrievably to the lost if some passer-by merely looked 
at me and half unconsciously counted me with them. Anyone 
could push me down to them with the cursory judgment of a 
disparaging glance. And wasn't I really one of them, since I was 
poor like them and full of opposition to everything that occu- 
pied and rejoiced and deluded and deceived other people? Was I 
not denying everything that was valid about me, and was I 


not actually homeless in spite of the semblance of a room in which 
I was as much a stranger as if I were sharing it with someone 
unknown? Did I not starve, like them, at tables on which stood 
food that I did not touch because it was not pure and not simple 
like that which I loved? And did I not already differ, like them, 
from the majority about me by the fact that no wine was in me 
nor any other deluding drink? Was I not clear like those lonely 
ones who were misted over only on the outside by the fumes 
and heaviness of the city and the laughter that comes like smoke 
out of the evil fires that it keeps going? Nothing was so little 
laughter as the laughter of those estranged creatures: when they 
laughed, it sounded as though something were falling in them, 
falling and being dashed to pieces and filling them up with broken 
bits. They were serious; and their seriousness reached out for 
me like the force of gravity and drew me deep down into the 
center of their misery. 

What did it avail that on many mornings I got up happier and 
went out with more courage and capable of a quiet industrious 
day. . . . Once (it was rather early in the day) I came thus down 
the Boulevard St. Michel with the intention of going to the 
Bibliotheque Nationale, where I used to spend a great deal of 
time. I was walking along rejoicing in all that morning and the 
beginning of a new day dispenses, even in a city, of freshness, 
brightness, and courage. The red on the wagon wheels that was 
as moist and cold as on flower petals gladdened me, and I was 
glad that somewhere at the end of the street a person was wear- 
ing something light green without my thinking what it might be. 
Slowly the water wagons drove uphill, and the water sprang 
young and light out of their pipes and made the street dark, so 
that it no longer dazzled. Horses came by in shimmering harness, 
and their hooves struck like a hundred hammers. The cries of 
the vendors had a different ring: rose up more lightly and echoed 
high above. And the vegetables on their handcarts were stirring 
like a little field and had a free morning of their own above them, 
and in them darkness, green, and dew. And when it was still for 

a moment, one heard overhead the noise of windows being flung 
open. . . . 

Then I was suddenly struck by the peculiar behavior of the 
people coming toward me; most of them walked for a while 
with heads turned to look back, so that I had to be careful not to 
collide with them; there were also some who had stopped, and 
by following their gaze I arrived, among the people walking 
ahead of me, at a slender man dressed in black, who, as he went 
along, was using both hands to turn down his overcoat collar 
which apparently kept standing up in an annoying way. Because 
of this exertion which was visibly taxing him, he repeatedly for- 
got to pay attention to the walk, stumbled or sprang hastily over 
some little obstacle. When this had happened several times in 
quick succession, he did turn his attention to the walk, but it was 
remarkable that nevertheless, after two or three steps, he again 
faltered and then hopped over something. I had involuntarily 
quickened my step and now found myself close enough behind 
the man to see that the movements of his feet had nothing at all 
to do with the sidewalk, which was smooth and even, and that he 
only wanted to deceive those he met when he turned about after 
each stumble as if to call some guilty object to account. In reality 
there was nothing to be seen. In the meantime the awkwardness of 
his gait slowly diminished, and he hurried on quite quickly now 
and remained for a while unnoticed. But suddenly the restless- 
ness began again in his shoulders, drew them up twice and then 
let them fall, so that they hung quite slantwise from him as he 
went on. But how amazed I was when I suddenly had to admit 
having seen how his left hand moved with indescribable speed 
to his coat collar, almost unnoticeably seized it and stood it up, 
whereupon he attempted with a great deal of trouble to lay the 
collar down with both hands, seeming, just like the first time, to 
succeed only with great difficulty. In so doing he nodded to the 
front and to the left, stretched his neck and nodded, nodded, 
nodded behind his busy upraised hands, as though the shirt collar 
too were beginning to trouble him, and as if there were work to be 


done up there for a long time yet. Finally everything seemed to 
be in order again. He went some ten steps completely unnoticed, 
when quite suddenly the rise and fall of his shoulders began again; 
simultaneously, a waiter, who was cleaning up in front of a 
coffeehouse, stood and looked with curiosity at the passer-by, who 
unexpectedly shook himself, stopped and then took up his walk 
again in little jumps. The waiter laughed and shouted some- 
thing into the store, whereat a few more faces became visible 
behind the windowpanes. But the strange man had in the 
meantime hung his cane with its crooked handle on his collar 
from behind, and now, as he went on, he held it thus, vertically, 
just over his spine; there was nothing startling about this, and 
it supported him. The new position calmed him considerably, 
and he went along for a moment quite relieved. No one paid any 
attention to him; but I, who couldn't keep my eyes off him even 
for a second, knew how gradually the restlessness was returning, 
how it became stronger and stronger, how it tried now here, now 
there to express itself, how it shook at his shoulders, how it clung 
to his head to tear it out of balance, and how suddenly it quite un- 
expectedly overcame and broke up his walk. As yet one hardly 
saw all this; it was enacted at short intervals imperceptibly and 
almost secretly, but it was really there already, and it was grow- 
ing. I felt how this whole man was filling up with restlessness, 
how this restlessness which couldn't find an outlet increased, and 
how it mounted, and I saw his will, his fear, and the desperate 
expression of his convulsive hands pressing the cane against his 
spine as though they wanted to make it a part of this helpless 
body, in which lay the incitement to a thousand dances. And I 
experienced how this cane became something, something im- 
portant, on which much depended; all the strength of the man and 
his whole will went into it and made it into a power, into a being 
that could perhaps help and to which the sick man clung with 
wild faith. A god came into being here, and a world rose up 
against him. But while this battle was being waged, the man who 
bore it was trying to go ahead, and he succeeded for mo- 
ments in appearing innocent and ordinary. Now he was crossing 

the Place St. Michel, and although the avoiding of carriages and 
pedestrians, which were very numerous, might have offered him 
the pretext for unusual motions, he remained quite still, and there 
was even a strange, stiff quiet in his whole body as he stepped 
on to the sidewalk of the bridge beyond. I was now close behind 
him, will-less, drawn along by his fear that was no longer dis- 
tinguishable from mine. Suddenly the cane gave way, in the mid- 
dle of the bridge. The man stood; extraordinarily still and rigid 
he stood there and didn't move. Now he was waiting; but it was 
as though the enemy in him didn't yet trust this submission; he 
hesitated only a minute, to be sure. Then he broke out like a 
fire, out of all the windows at once. And there began a dance. 
* . . A dense circle of people that had quickly formed, gradu- 
ally pushed me back, and I could see no more. My knees shook, 
and everything had been taken out of me. I stood for a while 
leaning against the bridge railing, and finally I went back to 
my room; there would no longer have been any sense in going 
to the library. Where is there a book that would be strong 
enough to help me out over what was in me? I was as though used 
up; as though another person's fear had been nourished out of 
me and had exhausted me, that is how I was. 

And many mornings were like that one and evenings were 
like that. Had I been able to make the fears I experienced thus, 
had I been able to shape things out of them, real, still things that 
it is serenity and freedom to create and from which, when they 
exist, reassurance emanates, then nothing would have happened 
to me. But these fears that fell to my lot out of every day stirred 
a hundred other fears, and they stood up in me against me and 
agreed among themselves, and I couldn't get beyond them. In 
striving to form them, I came to work creatively on them; in- 
stead of making them into things of my will, I only gave them 
a life of their own which they turned against me and with which 
they pursued me far into the night. Had things been better with 
me, more quiet and friendly, had my room stood by me, and had 
I remained well, perhaps I would have been able to do it even so: 
to make things out of fear. 


Once I succeeded, though only for a short time. When I was 
in Viareggio the fears broke loose there, to be sure, more than 
before and overwhelmed me. And the sea that was never silent 
was too much for me and drenched me with the noise of its spring 
waves. But it came nevertheless. Prayers came into being there r 
Lou, a book of prayers. To you I must tell it because in your hands 
are resting my first prayers of which I have so often thought and 
to which I have so often clung out of the distance. Because their 
ring is so great and because they are so peaceful with you (and 
because no one besides you and me knows of them) that is why 
I could cling to them. And sometime I would like to be allowed! 
to come and lay the prayers, the others that have since come into 
being, with the others, with you, in your hands, in your quiet 

For, see, I am a stranger and a poor man. And I shall pass; but 
in your hands shall be everything that might sometime have been 
my home, had I been stronger. 

To Ellen Key for the present, Oberneuland bei Bremen 

July 25, 1903 

We have come over from Worpswede to Oberneuland for a 
few days for a reunion with little Ruth. And now we are about 
her day and night and are getting to know her; and she is good 
to us. In the morning when she wakes up, she tells us about her- 
self in her self-constructed, expressive language and herself initi- 
ates us into her little life; and it is as if memories in her were help- 
ing her to overcome all strangeness that was between us at first* 
She came to us herself, and all at once it was natural to her to say 
"Mother," and me she calls "Man/' and sometimes "Good Man," 
and rejoices every morning that I am still there. And the garden 
around the quiet house is so beautiful, and we know definitely 
now that she is well off and we are drawing a great peace and 
strength for ourselves out of these days. . . . 


To Lou Andreas-Salome Worpswede bei Bremen 

August i, 1903 

. . . Only now that our summer really makes so little sense 
and has become so restless, we want to think of leaving before 
the end of August. First a reunion with my father is to take place 
in Leipzig, and then we shall travel via Munich, Venice, and 
Florence to Rome where my wife (at Rodin's wish) is to work 
during the next year. I myself will then remain a month or two 
in Rome also, for I am most anxious to see antiquity, which I 
really don't know at all yet, especially its little things that are 
of such full-grown beauty. With them and with Gothic carving 
Rodin's work, through which I have gone so deeply and patiently, 
has connected me, and I feel an Italian sojourn now as a natural 
continuation of the best that Paris gave me to learn. But I do not 
want to stay too long in Rome and after a while will go on alone 
to some remote place that has a good winter. Where I shall live 
then, I do not yet know. The Tuscan country is dear to me, and 
I would certainly like to be where St. Francis opened up his 
radiant poverty like a cloak into which all the animals came: 
in Subiaco or in Assisi; but it is a mountainous country and per- 
haps too wild in winter. And I may have to go southward from 
Rome, perhaps to the little town of Ravello that lies near Amalfi, 
high above the blue gulfs of that happy coast. Perhaps solitude 
will come over me there and the great quiet that everything in 
me longs for; then I will live quietly in the company of things and 
be thankful for everything that keeps the all-too-commonplace 
from me. . . . The little book on Rodin's work that I am send- 
ing you today will tell you much . . . ; it is sheer personal 
experience, a testimonial of that first time in Paris, when in the 
shelter of an overgreat impression, I felt somewhat hidden from 
the thousandfold fear that came later. . . , 


To Lou Andreas-Salome Oberneuland bei Bremen 

August 8, 1903 

. . . When I first came to Rodin and lunched with him out 
there in Meudon with people to whom one was not introduced, 
at the same table with strangers, I knew that his house was nothing 
to him, a paltry little necessity perhaps, a roof for time of rain 
and sleep; and that it was no care to him and no weight upon 
his solitude and composure. Deep in himself he bore the dark- 
ness, shelter, and peace of a house, and he himself had become 
sky above it, and wood around it and distance and great stream 
always flowing by. Oh what a lonely person is this aged man who, 
sunk in himself, stands full of sap like an old tree in autumn! He 
has become deep; he has dug a deep place for his heart, and its 
beat comes from afar off as from the center of a mountain. His 
thoughts go about in him and fill him with heaviness and sweet- 
ness and do not lose themselves on the surface. He has become 
blunt and hard toward the unimportant, and he stands among 
people as though surrounded by old bark. But to what is im- 
portant he throws himself open, and he is wholly open when he 
is among things or where animals and people touch him quietly 
and like things. There he is learner and beginner and spectator 
and imitator of beauties that otherwise have always passed away 
among the sleeping, among the absent-minded and unsympathetic. 
There he is the attentive one whom nothing escapes, the lover who 
continually receives, the patient one who does not count his time 
and does not think of wanting the next thing. For him what he 
gazes at and surrounds with gazing is always the only thing, the 
world in which everything happens; when he fashions a hand, 
it is alone in space, and there is nothing besides a hand; and in six 
days God made only a hand and poured out the waters around 
it and bent the heavens above it; and rested over it when all was 
finished, and it was a glory and a hand. 

And this way of looking and of living is so fixed in him because 
he acquired it as a handworker: at that time when he attained 


the element of his art which is so infinitely simple and unrelated 
to subject matter, he attained that great justice, that equilibrium 
in the face of the world which wavers before no name. Since it 
was granted him to see things in everything, he made his own the 
opportunity to build things; for that is his great art. Now no 
movement can confuse him any more, since he knows that even 
in the rise and fall of a quiet surface there is movement, and since 
he sees only surfaces and systems of surfaces which define forms 
accurately and clearly. For there is nothing uncertain for him 
in an object that serves him as a model: there a thousand little 
surface elements are fitted into the space, and it is his task, 
when he creates a work of art after it, to fit the thing still more 
intimately," more firmly, a thousand times better into the breadth 
of space, so that, as it were, it will not move if it is jolted. The 
object is definite, the art object must be even more definite; with- 
drawn from all chance, removed from all obscurity, lifted out 
of time and given to space, it has become lasting, capable of 
eternity. The model seems, the art object is. Thus the one is an 
inexpressible advance over the other, the calm and rising realiza- 
tion of the wish to be that emanates from everything in Na- 
ture. And by this the error is confounded that would make of 
art the most arbitrary and most vain of occupations; it is the 
most humble service and entirely founded on law. But of this 
error all creators and all arts are full, and a very powerful man 
had to rise up against it; and it had to be a doer who doesn't talk 
and who does things unceasingly. His art was from the very be- 
ginning realization (and the opposite of music, which transforms 
the apparent realities of the everyday world and renders them 
still more unreal as easy, gliding appearance. For which reason 
too this antithesis of art, this noncondensation, this temptation to 
flow out has so many friends and listeners and henchmen, so many 
who are unfree and bound to pleasure, who do not take increase 
out of themselves and are charmed from the outside , . ,), Rodin, 
born in poverty and low estate, saw better than anyone that all 
beauty in people and animals and things is endangered by rela- 
tionships and time, that it is a moment, a youth that comes and 


goes in all ages, but does not last. What troubled him was just 
the semblance of that which he considered indispensable, neces- 
sary, and good: the semblance of beauty. He wanted it to be y 
and he saw his task in fitting things (for things endured) into 
the less menaced, more peaceful and more eternal world of space; 
and unconsciously he applied to his work all the laws of adapta- 
tion, so that it developed organically and became capable of life. 
Already very early he tried to make nothing "on the basis of ap- 
pearance"; there was no stepping back with him, but a per- 
petual being close to and being bent over what was coming into 
being. And today this characteristic has become so strong in 
him that one could almost say the appearance of his things is a 
matter of indifference to him: so much does he experience their 
being) their reality, their release on all sides from the uncertain, 
their completedness and goodness, their independence; they do 
not stand on the earth, they circle about it. 

And as his great work arose from handwork, from the almost 
unintending and humble will to make better and better things, 
so he stands even today, untouched and free of intent and matter, 
one of the simplest among his grown-up things. The great 
thoughts, the lofty significances have come to them like laws con- 
summated in something good, complete; he .didn't summon them. 
He didn't desire them; humbly as a servant he went his way and 
made a world, a hundred worlds. But each world that lives radi- 
ates its heaven outward and flings starry nights far out into 
eternity. This: that he invented nothing, gives to his work that 
striking immediacy and purity. The groups of figures, the larger 
relationships of forms he did not put together in advance while 
they were still ideas; (for the idea is one thing and almost 
nothing but the realization is another and everything). He 
promptly made things, many things, and only out of them did he 
form or let grow up the new unity, and so his relationships have 
become intimate and logical, because not ideas but things have 
bound themselves together. And this work could only come 
from a worker, and he who has built it can calmly deny inspira- 
tion; it doesn't come upon him, because it is in him, day and night, 


occasioned by each looking, a warmth generated by every ges- 
ture of his hand. And the more the things about him grew, the 
rarer were the disturbances that reached him; for all noises broke 
off against the realities that stood about him. His very work has 
protected him; he has lived in it as in a wood, and his life must 
have lasted a long time already, for what he himself planted has 
become a tall forest. And when one goes about among the things 
with which he dwells and lives, which he sees again every day 
and every day completes, then his house and the sounds in it are 
something unspeakably trivial and incidental, and one sees it only 
as in a dream, strangely distorted and filled with an assortment 
of pale memories. His daily life and the people that belong in it 
lie there like an empty stream-bed through which he no longer 
flows; but there is nothing sad in that; for near by one hears the 
great roar and the powerful flow of the stream that would not 
divide into two arms. . . . 

And I believe, Lou, that it must be so. ... O Lou, in one 
of my poems that is successful, there is much more reality than 
in any relationship or affection that I feel; where I create, I am 
true, and I would like to find the strength to base my life entirely 
on this truth, on this infinite simplicity and joy that is sometimes 
given to me. Even when I went to Rodin, I was seeking that; 
for I had had a presentiment for years of the endless example 
and model of his work. Now, since I have come from him, I 
know that I too may ask and seek for no other realizations than 
those of my work; there my house is, there are the women I 
need, and the children that will grow up and live a long time. 
But how shall I begin to go this road where is the handwork of 
my art, its deepest and lowest point at which I might begin to 
be proficient? I shall go back over every path to that beginning, 
and all that I have done shall be nothing, less than the sweeping 
of a doorstep to which the next guest brings traces of the road 
again. I have patience for centuries in me and will live as though 
my time were very big. I will collect myself out of all distractions, 
and I will bring back and save up what is mine from too quick 
applications. But I hear voices that bode well, and steps that are 


coming nearer, and my doors are opening. . . . And when I 
seek out people, they do not counsel me and don't know what I 
mean. And toward books I am just the same (so clumsy), and 
they do not help me either, as though even they were still too 
human. . . . Only things speak to me. Rodin's things, the things 
on the Gothic cathedrals, the things of antiquity all things that 
are complete things. They directed me to the models; to the 
animated, living world, seen simply and without interpretation 
as the occasion for things. I am beginning to see something new: 
already flowers are often so infinitely much to me, and excite- 
ments of a strange kind have come to me from animals. And 
already I am sometimes experiencing even people in this way, 
hands are living somewhere, mouths are speaking, and I look at 
everything more quietly and with greater justness. 

But I still lack the discipline, the being able to work, and the 
being compelled to work, for which I have longed for years. Do 
I lack the strength? Is my will sick? Is it the dream in me that 
hinders all action? Days go by and sometimes I hear life going. 
And still nothing has happened, still there is nothing real about 
me; and I divide again and again and flow apart, and yet would 
like so much to run in one bed and grow big. For, it's true, isn't 
it, Lou, it ought to be this way: we should be like one stream 
and not enter canals and lead water to the pastures? It's true, 
isn't it, that we must hold ourselves together and go surging on? 
Perhaps when we are very old, sometime, at the very end, we 
may give in, spread ourselves out and flow into a delta. . . . 
Dear Lou! 

To Lou Andreas-Salome Oberneuland bei Bremen 

August 10, 1903 

To learn that my little Rodin book means a lot to you, Lou, was 
an unspeakable joy to me. Nothing could fill me so with cer- 
tainty and with hope as this yea-saying of yours to the most full- 
grown of my works. Now for the first time it stands for me, 

now for the first time it is completed, acknowledged by reality, 
upright and good. 

And what your letter contained besides of elucidation 
illumined me infinitely helpfully and brightly with quiet light; 
my letter of Saturday (which you have surely received) at- 
tempted to find similar ways and to trace the event Rodin was for 
me. He is one of the most important, a sign high above the times, 
an uncommon example, a miracle visible far and wide and yet 
nothing but an unspeakably lonely old man, lonely in a great old 
age. See, he has lost nothing, he has collected and gathered about 
him for a great life long; he has left nothing in uncertainty and 
has given reality to everything; out of the flight of a frightened 
feeling, out of a dream's fragments, out of the beginning of a 
presentiment even, he has made things and has placed them about 
him, things and things; so a reality grew around him, a wide calm 
relationship of things that linked him with other and older things, 
until he himself seemed to stem from a dynasty of great things; 
his quiet and his patience comes from thence, his fearless, endur- 
ing age, his superiority over people who are much too mobile, 
too vacillating, playing too much with the equilibriums in which, 
almost unconsciously, he rests. 

You are so wonderfully right, Lou: I suffered from the too 
great example which my art offered no means of following di- 
rectly; the impossibility of fashioning things physically became 
pain in my own body, and even that fearfulness (whose sub- 
stance was the close proximity of something too hard, too stony, 
too big) arose from the impossibility of uniting two worlds of 
art: the way you feel it and clarify it with your great knowledge 
of the human: you prophetess . . . 

But just because you have helped me with this lighting up, with 
this indescribably helpful, pertinent understanding, it is becom- 
ing apparent to me that I must follow him, Rodin: not in a sculp- 
tural reshaping of my creative work, but in the inner disposition 
of the artistic process; I must learn from him not how to fashion 
but deep composure for the sake of the fashioning. I must learn 
to work, to work, Lou, I am so lacking in that! II faut toujours 

travailler tou jours he said to me once, when I spoke to him 
of the frightening abysses that open up between my good days; 
he could hardly understand it any longer; he, who has become all 
work (so much so that his gestures are homely movements taken 
from manual work!). Perhaps it is only a kind of clumsiness 
that hinders me from working, that is, from accumulating from 
all that happens; for I am equally perplexed when it comes to 
taking what is mine from books or from contacts; I scarcely 
recognize it: external circumstances disguise and conceal it from 
me, and I no longer know how to separate the important from 
the superfluous and am bewildered and intimidated by all there 
is. For weeks I sat in Paris in the Bibliotheque Nationale and read 
books I had long wished for; but the notes I made then help me to 
nothing; for while I read, everything seemed extraordinarily new 
and important to me, and I was strongly tempted to copy out the 
whole book since I couldn't take it with me; inexperienced with 
books, I go about in them like a country boy, in continual, stupid 
admiration and come out confused, laden with the most su- 
perfluous objects. And I am similarly clumsy about events that 
come and go, without the gift of selection, without the calmness 
for reception, a mirror turned this way and that, out of which 
all images fall . . . that is why it is so frightfully necessary for 
me to find the tool of my art, the hammer, my hammer, so that it 
may become master and may grow above all noises. There must 
be a handwork beneath this art too; a loyal, daily work that makes 
use of everything must after all be possible here too! Oh that I had 
workdays, Lou, that my most secret heart chamber were a 
workroom and cell and refuge for me; that all this monkishness 
in me might become cloister-building for the sake of my work 
and reverence. That I might lose nothing more and might set up 
everything about me according to kinship and importance. That 
I might rise again, Lou! For I am scattered like some dead man 
in an old grave. . . . 

Somehow I too must manage to make things; written, not plas- 
tic things, realities that proceed from handwork. Somehow I 
too must discover the smallest basic element, the cell of my art, 


the tangible medium of presentation for everything, irrespective 
of subject matter: then the clear strong consciousness of the 
tremendous work that lay before me would coerce and bend me 
to it: then I would have so infinitely much to do that one work- 
day would resemble another, and I would have work that Would 
.always be successful because it would begin with the attainable 
and small and yet from the beginning would be in the great. Then 
everything would suddenly be distant, disturbance and voices, 
and even what is hostile would fit in with the work as sounds 
pass into a dream, gently guiding it to the unexpected. The 
subject matter would lose still more of its importance and weight 
and would be nothing but pretext; but just this apparent indiff er- 
'Cnce to it would make me capable of shaping all subject matter, 
to find and to form pretexts for everything with the right and dis- 
interested means. 

Does the handwork lie perhaps in the language itself, in a better 
recognition of its inner life and will, its development and past? 
(The big Grimm dictionary, which I once saw in Paris, put me 
on to this possibility.) Does it lie in some specific study, in the 
more exact knowledge of a matter? (For many this is certainly 
.so without their knowing it, and the subject is the daily task, 
the handwork for them.) Or does it lie in a certain well-inherited 
and well-increased culture? (Hofmannsthal would speak for 
that. . . .) But with me it is different; toward everything in- 
herited I have to be hostile, and what I have acquired is so slight; 
I am almost without culture. My continually renewed attempts 
to begin a definite course of study broke down pitifully; for ex- 
terior reasons, and because of the strange feeling that always 
surprised me during it: as if I were having to come back from 
an inborn knowledge by a wearisome road that again led to it 
by many windings. Perhaps the sciences at which I tried my hand 
were too abstract, and perhaps new things will come out of 
others? . . . But I lack books for all that and guides for the 
tooks. But my knowing so little often distresses me; perhaps 
only my knowing so little of flowers and of animals and of simple 
procedures. . . . 


To Lou Andreas-Salome Oberneuland bei Bremen 

August u, 1903 (Tuesday) 

. . . Even I do not want to tear art and life apart; I know that 
sometime and somewhere they have the same meaning. But I am 
a clumsy fellow at life, and that is why, as it closes in about me t 
it is so often a stopping place for me, a delay that makes me lose 
a great deal; rather as in a dream sometimes when one cannot 
finish dressing and on account of two obstinate shoe buttons 
misses something important that will never come again. And it is 
indeed true, too, that life goes by and really doesn't grant time for 
experiences missed and for many losses; especially for one who 
wants to have an art. For art is far too great and too difficult and 
too long a thing for one life, and those who are of a very great 
age are only just beginners in it. "Cest a Page de soixante-treize 
ans que j'ai compris a peu pres la forme et la nature vraie des 
oiseaux, des poissons et des plantes," wrote Hokusai, and Rodin 
feels the same way, and one can also think of Leonardo who grew 
very old. And they always lived in their art and, concentrated on 
the one thing, let all the rest become overgrown. But how then 
is a man not to become anxious who only rarely comes into 
his sanctuary because outside in refractory life he gets caught in 
every snare and bumps himself stupid against all obstacles. That 
is why I want so ardently and so impatiently to find work, the 
workday, because life, if only it has first become work, can be- 
come art. I know that I cannot cut my life out of the destinies 
with which it has become intertwined; but I must find the strength 
to lift it up wholly, as it is, with everything, into a peace, into a 
solitude, into the stillness of deep workdays: only there will 
everything find me that you have prophesied for me, and you too, 
Lou, will be looking for me there. Be indulgent with me if I keep 
you waiting; you have gone like a wise man, but I move as ani- 
mals move when the closed season is over. 


C 53 3 

To Lou Andreas-Salome Oberneuland bei Bremen 

August 15, 1903 

Dear Lou, behind the park that surrounds this house the fast 
Hamburg trains go by, and their noise is great and drowns out all 
the wind in the trees; and it becomes daily more meaningful, for 
already the leaves are falling from the little bit of peace that has 
surrounded us, and one can see through to the impending jour- 
ney, and feels approaching, mingled with hardships to come, the 
promises of distant cities and the spirit of remote regions, the 
New. Next Friday perhaps, or Saturday, we start on our journey; 
the first stdp is Marienbad (where a meeting with my father has 
been agreed upon), and then we stop in Munich to admire a 
great picture of a friend we made in Paris. It is the family of a 
bullfighter which Ignacio Zuloaga has painted, and the Spanish 
painter as a person too impressed us as so big and simple that 
we look forward to seeing this picture, into which he put much 
of himself, as eagerly as to a reunion. In Venice also (which 
means the next pause in our journey) we shall see pictures of his; 
perhaps as the only reality in that dreamlike city whose exist- 
ence is like a reflection. Then, after a short stay, we travel toward 
Florence, toward the bright and lovely country that called forth 
so much adoration, praise, and joy. Even there we shall be given 
only a few days' respite, for: Rome is imminent, the great, sum- 
moning Rome that is still only a name to us, but soon to be a thing 
made of a hundred things, a great shattered vessel out of which 
much past has trickled into the ground, Rome the ruin we want to 
build up again. Not the way she may once have been, but as 
seekers of the inner future in that past in which was included much 
of the eternal. As descendants of those solitary things, lost out 
of their time, about which science errs when it burdens them with 
names and periods, to which admiration does injustice when it 
sees in them a specific and describable beauty; for they held their 
faces into the earth and shed all name and meaning; and when 
they were found, they rose up, light, over the earth and became 


almost as the birds, so very much beings of space and standing 
like stars above inconstant time. Therein, I believe, lies the in- 
comparable value of these rediscovered things, that one can look 
at them so entirely as things unknown; one does not know their 
intention, and no subject matter attaches itself to them (at least 
for the unscientific), no unessential voice breaks the stillness of 
their concentrated existence, and their permanence is without 
retrospect and fear. The masters from whom they derive are 
nothing, no misunderstood fame colors their forms which are 
pure, no history overshadows their naked clarity : they are. 
And that is all. That is how I imagine the art of antiquity. That 
little tiger at Rodin's is like that, and the many fragments and 
broken pieces in the museums (that one carelessly passes by for a 
long time, until someday one reveals itself, shows itself, shines 
like a first star beside which suddenly, when one notices it, hun- 
dreds arrive, breathless, from out of the depths of the sky ) are 
like that, and so is the very great Nike, standing on its driving 
ship-fragment in the Louvre like a sail full of joyful winds, 
and much that seems trivial to one who is still mistaken in looking 
for sculpture in the subject matter, in the pretext, lives in this 
lofty perfection among men, broken off and sketchy as they 
are. Of like greatness are of course the Gothic things which, al- 
though they stand much nearer in time, are just as remote, just 
as anonymous, just as independent in their solitude, without 
origin, like the things in Nature. These, and what came from 
Rodin's hands, led us to the most distant works of art, to the pre- 
Greek, in whose nature lies a sculptured ruthlessness, a thing-like- 
ness, heavy as lead, mountainlike and hard. Relationships were 
uncovered which no one*at all had yet felt, connections formed 
and closed the streams that go through the ages, and the history 
of endless generations of things could be divined beneath human 
history, like a stratum of slower and more peaceful developments 
that come about more deeply, more intimately, and more un- 
confusedly. Into this history, Lou, the Russian will perhaps fit 
sometime, who, as one becoming and enduring, is descended 
from things and related to them, the way Rodin is as a creator, 


related by blood. The biding quality in the character of the Rus- 
sian (which the German's self-important busyness with the 
unimportant calls indolence ) would thus receive a new and 
sure enlightenment: perhaps the Russian was made to let the 
history of mankind pass by in order later to chime into the har- 
mony of things with his singing heart. He has only to endure, to 
hold out and like the violinist, to whom no signal has yet been 
given, to sit in the orchestra, carefully holding his instrument 
so that nothing may happen to it. ... More and more, and filled 
with a deeper and deeper sympathy, I bear within me my affec- 
tion for this wide, holy land; as a new ground for solitude, and as 
a high hindrance against others . . . : I always fall right away 
with the whole burden of my love to the very bottom of the sea 
and frighten people, as with a too quick (almost awkward) con- 
fidence, when I begin at once to tell of what is deepest and most 
secret; toward people that is a mistake, a rudeness almost, which 
astonishes them, and in me it is a lack, a mania, that makes real 
(that is, fruitful and useful) association with people impossible; 
for me it is difficult to the point of unbearableness to believe that 
a conversation that begins somewhere in the insignificant can end 
in the important; some accident will certainly intervene or a di- 
version or a misunderstanding unimportant in itself, on which 
further continuance of course breaks off: that is why everything 
in me continually plunges toward the final, ultimate, most im- 
portant, and my interlocutor of the moment no longer attempts 
to keep step with me at all; superior to my impoliteness, he re- 
mains behind, and when I look around breathless at the end of 
my course, I see him far off, very small, but smiling in a friendly 
way and wholly occupied with acting as if nothing had hap- 
pened. . , . 

But it is not from any wisdom in me that this economy of the 
important springs. It is a defect in my nature to forget all roads 
that lead anywhere, yes, even all arrivings, up to whatever is 
the latest arriving, of which alone I am then able to speak. Does 
that happen perhaps because I fly to so many destinations or reach 
them walking blindfold, so that with its end I am not likewise 

given the way? Or is it simply a negligence of my memory, which 
retains only the results, letting slip the advancing steps of cal- 
culation from which they flow? From this defective tendency 
comes my continual poverty, my possessions, so slight in pro- 
portion to the daily intake, the emptiness and inactivity of many 
days; for since I carry nothing in me but some last-acquired 
product, while the calculation itself, in which this again becomes 
a factor, goes on illegibly in me, waiting period after waiting 
period occurs from one result to another. And also, that so often 
I seem to open disproportionately wide to people who are more 
or less strangers is not alone a weakness of the spiritual closing 
muscles, as I long thought; there is only one thing in me, and I 
must either stay locked up (that is, be silent or prattle ) or else 
open myself, whereupon my sole inhabitant becomes visible. 
This inner constitution of mine, which is faulty, really shuts me 
off from all association, since in this form it leads only to dispari- 
ties and misunderstanding and pushes me into unwanted relation- 
ships in which I suffer and from which many a dangerous reper- 
cussion can come. It is characteristic that I have acquired all my 
"friends" in this dishonest way, for which reason also I possess 
them only badly and without a good conscience. Only thus is it 
possible (as for example in the pre-Worpswede period three 
years ago) that I should have acquired a whole crowd of friends 
who could give nothing in return for my continual expenditure, 
and that no one can respond to me anyway, because I give ruth- 
lessly and brutally, without regard to others, unloading at this 
place and that, instead of offering, of showing and bestowing with 
fine selection from an ordered store. In these past years I have 
been coming to a better and better insight into my illnesses, even 
into this one; and I now touch people with greater caution and 
intend, for my part, each time to be the one to wait, wherever 
possible the one to respond and not the one to take the initiative. 
On this new foundation a few relationships have been formed 
in which I can more honorably rejoice than in the earlier ones; 
on it is based a correspondence with Ellen Key (who wants to 
help me in a practical way), a cordial association with Gerhart 

Hauptmann which has brought me beautiful letters from the heart 
of his creative activity, the contact with Zuloaga and the great 
acquisition of Rodin; in both the latter cases I feel it especially 
good that no too-impetuous and too-blind opening up on my 
side can have been the cause of one disappointment after another; 
for the language stood in the way of that. In both cases only a 
rather laborious understanding through French was possible, 
yes, even my books (to which I would so gladly have entrusted 
it) were deprived of the chance to speak for me and about me; 
and that in spite of all resistance, inherent in the circumstances, 
quiet relationships with these solitary people grew up, relation- 
ships which perhaps need not be put to work at all because they 
rest on an already conclusive knowledge of a few great common 
experiences, gives me somewhat more confidence with people. 
But a tendency like mine is a danger, especially when it is ac- 
companied by a practical clumsiness toward others and by the 
intimidating feeling of being among a lot of people who are su- 
perior at life; such tendencies aren't easily overthrown, and the 
highest one can achieve is to use them more generously and more 
diffidently, to apply them more maturely and with more experi- 
ence. Even in the innermost processes of my creative activity 
there are traces of this tendency; in the extremely unscientific 
developments which every subject matter and every provocation 
to work experiences in me anyway, whenever the synthesis, the 
thing that is last and most remote appears as the point of departure, 
going backward from which I must invent precedents and paths, 
utterly uncertain of their course and initiated only into the goal, 
into the ultimate, final summation and apotheosis. 

And this ignorance of the way, this being sure only in the most 
extreme and most remote, makes all going so difficult for me and 
scatters over me all the sadness of those who have got lost, even 
while I am in the process of finding myself. That Russia is my 
home is one of the great and mysterious certainties out of which 
I live, but my attempts to go there, through journeys, through 
books, through people are as nothing and are more a putting 
to use than a getting closer. My efforts are like the crawling of 

a snail and yet there are moments when the unutterably distant 
goal is reflected in me as in a near-by mirror. I live and learn in so 
much distraction that I often cannot see at all to what purpose 
it will all sometime have been. In Paris I didn't get appreciably 
nearer to Russia, and yet somehow I think that even now in Rome, 
in the presence of antique things, I'll be preparing for things Rus- 
sian and for returning thither. If I didn't know that all develop- 
ments pursue circular paths, I should become anxious, knowing 
myself again sent out into the temptation of a foreign land that 
calls, that will speak to me of its own in an intoxicating lan- 
guage. More than once already Italian life has enraptured me and 
misled me into ascents from which I painfully fell; but for that 
reason it is perhaps good that this young artist will be beside me 
now, this woman who neither as a creator nor for the sake of life 
has ever longed for this southern land, because her northern feel- 
ing mistrusted the too open quality of its radiant splendor and her 
receptivity, already overladen with the taciturn accent of the 
serious moors, had no need of more loquacious persuasion. Now, 
at a mature point in her art, she is attempting this journey on 
Rodin's advice, after acquaintance with antique remains in Paris 
has inspired her with a certain need to see Italy, not Italy as it 
presses about any particular idler or an art student indiscrim- 
inately abandoned to all impressions, but Italy as it is about one 
quietly trying to carry on his work there, in order to raise his 
eyes in the pauses to the new that surrounds him. In these pauses 
we shall see many things together; but I, in any case, shall first 
learn to live entirely for looking and for the receiving of many 
things; for in Rome (where Clara Rilke will work the entire 
winter) I want to hold out only a little while and, before I feel 
the pressure of the city, to find a lonely little place (perhaps by 
the sea) which has both a gentle winter and an early spring. If 
only the days would come there, Lou, in which I would learn to 
work deeply and collectedly; if only I might find a high room, 
a terrace, an avenue in which no one walks, and nights without a 
neighbor; and if the worry about the everyday would vouchsafe 
me only for a little while this life for which I cry out, then I 

_ [33 

will never again permit a complaint to escape me, whatever may 
come later. 

Out of this stillness, if it is given to me, I will sometimes raise 
myself to you, as to the saint of that far-off home that I cannot 
reach, deeply moved that you, bright star that you are, stand 
right over the place where I am darkest and most fearful. 

To Lou Andreas-Salome Via del Campidoglio, Rome 

November 3, 1903 

Do you still remember Rome, dear Lou? How is it in your 
memory? In mine sometime there will be only its waters, those 
clear, exquisite, animated waters that live in its squares; its steps, 
built on the pattern of falling water, so strangely thrusting stair 
out of stair like wave out of wave; its gardens' festiveness and 
the splendor of great terraces; its nights that last so long, still and 
filled to overflowing with great constellations. 

Of the past that laboriously holds itself erect, I shall perhaps 
know nothing more; nothing of its museums full of meaningless 
statues, and little of its pictures; the bronze statue of Marcus 
Aurelius on the Capitol square I shall remember, a beautiful mar- 
ble thing in the Ludovisi Museum (the throne of Aphrodite), a 
pillar in some little, forgotten church, some quite unknown things, 
a view out over the poor Campagna, a lovely walk toward eve- 
ning and much sadness in which I was living. 

In which I am living. 

For I am dissatisfied with myself, because I am without daily 
work, tired, although not sick, but in anxiety. When, Lou, when 
will this miserable life begin to be effective, when will it grow 
out over inability, inertia, and opacity to the simple, reverent 
joyousness for which it longs? Is it growing at all? I scarcely dare 
ask about my advancing steps, because I am afraid (like that 
man in Tolstoy) to find that their tracks run in a circle, keep 
coming back to that notorious disconsolate spot from which I 
have already so often started out. 


From which even now I want to start out again, under un- 
speakable effort and with only a little courage. 

So begins the Roman winter. I shall try to see much, want to 
go to the libraries and read; and then, when it begins to grow a 
little lighter in me, I want to be much at home and to collect 
myself around the best that I have not yet lost. For my time 
and my strength, as things stand with me, can have but one task, 
but this one: to find the road on which I shall come to quiet, 
daily work in which I can dwell with more security and stability 
than in this uncertain sickly world that is collapsing behind me 
and before me does not exist. The question whether I shall find 
such a road is not new but the years are passing, and it has 
become urgent, and I must be able to answer. . . . You do know 
too from my Oberneuland letters how things stand. They are 
not good. 

From the middle of November on, I have a very quiet place to 
live: the last, furthermost house deep in a big old garden of Porta 
del Popolo, beside the Villa Borghese; built as a summerhouse, it 
contains just one single simple high-windowed room, and from 
its flat roof one looks out over the garden to countryside and 
mountains. There I will try to arrange my life on the pattern 
of my Schmargendorf Woodpeace days; to be as quiet, as patient, 
as turned away from everything external, as in that good, ex- 
pectant, joyous time: so that they may become days of garden- 
peace. ... 

But now I am utterly without books and being so clumsy in 
dealing with libraries, I cannot easily get on; so I come asking you 
for something: Can you recall a modern, scientifically good Ger- 
man translation of the Bible of which you once spoke, and if 
possible, give me the name of the translator and publisher so 
that I can try to get the book here? And if I am not asking too 
much of you: perhaps give me the name of some new book or 
other that you have read: it might help me very much now. 

But above all I need a letter from you, Lou. 

I have thought of you so much during the journey and here and 
with many wishes have wanted you to return healthy from the 

mountains. For of all my thoughts that of you is the only one in 
which I find repose, and sometimes I lie in it wholly and sleep 
in it and get up out of it. ... 

Now it is autumn with you, and you walk in the wood, in the 
big wood into which one can already see so far, in the wind that 
is transforming the world. I think of the little pool, to the left of 
the Dahlem road, that always grew very big and lonely about this 
time. I think of the evenings after which comes the stormy night, 
taking all that is withered from the trees, and think of the storm 
itself, of the night flying past the stars into the morning. Into 
the empty, new, clear, stormed-out morning. . . . But here noth- 
ing alters; only a few trees are changing, as if they were coming 
into yellowish blossom. And the laurel stays. 

C 55*1 

To Arthur Holitscher 5 via del Campidoglio, Rome 

November 5, 1903 

. . . We have been in Tre Fontane, we have stood before the 
Tartarughe Fountain and seen in the churches the beautiful mo- 
saics you love. To us too the Borghese Gardens were a familiar 
place of refuge even in the first days and we had need of a re- 
treat, as the museums especially, with their many wretched statues, 
made us desolate, so to speak tore hope and home from our bodies. 
Perhaps that will change, but I have the feeling now that the Ro- 
mans had very excellent painting but quite second-rate, decora- 
tive, superficial sculpture; that the Greeks were great sculptors I 
learned in the Louvre and from Rodin, not here; apart from the 
throne of Aphrodite and a few little fragments, there seems to 
me to be nothing more here that speaks of them, and what a lack 
of paintings of the good period there is here, where everything is 
full of Renis and Guercinos. . . . 

But the sadness that arises from the fact that Rome is, for the 
most part, a bad museum you felt too and predicted to me; natu- 
rally there still remains enough to live on here; the fountains 
alone in all the squares, those bright, youthful fountains, and the 

steps that are so wonderfully built, as if on the pattern of waters. 

The ascent to the Capitol (when, in motion like one riding, 
the beautiful, simple bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius mounts, 
from step to step, from stair to stair) is among my favorites here; 
I make it every day, for I am still living now in the Via del 
Campidoglio, in the last house on the little terrace that faces 
the Forum. Only until the middle of this month; then I shall 
move into a little house, the last and most remote in the great 
wild garden of the Villa Strohl-Fern (where for several weeks 
already my wife too has had her studio and apartment) . I don't 
know whether you know this garden? Perhaps. Very deep within 
it behind high laurel bushes, there lies a little red building on the 
arch of a bridge that spans the main path of the garden, before it 
drops steeply for the descent (to Villa di Papa Giulio). Built 
years ago as a summerhouse, it contains a single simple high- 
windowed room and has a flat roof from which one can see Ro- 
man landscape far and wide. There I shall live, and I rejoice at 
the prospect of such great and remote solitude deep in the wide 
park. It is a kind Providence that permitted me to discover this 
room, and I think I shall rejoice in it, in the evenings that can 
pass there, in the great open nights with the noise of animals 
moving, fruits falling, winds stirring. . . . The most important 
thing for me will be as soon as possible to get to some kind of 
work there whose regular, daily return I must simply force in 
case it won't establish itself of its own accord. I will then get into 
the city relatively seldom, will be out there often for days, and 
will myself prepare my little meals in my hermitage and be all 
alone with my hands. 

Thus I will try to build a winter for myself. . , . 

To Ellen Key Villa Strohl-Fern, Rome 

December 22, 1903 

After many long rainy days with heavy, falling skies, a kind 
of spring is beginning here; fragrance comes from the bushes, 

and the laurel trees, warmed by noonday, smell of first summer 
days. There are shrubs from which the long catkins are hanging, 
and other shrubs that will blossom tomorrow, if the night is as 
gentle as these last nights that have passed slowly and mildly in 
the waxing moon. And yet Christmas is near; so people say at 
least, and if one happens of an evening into the too bright streets 
of the city, the crowd is big, and the display windows glitter. 
But here in the big garden in which we live, it will not be Christ- 
mas; a day will come, bright and shining, and will pass, and there 
will be a spring evening an evening with distant, darkening 
skies out of which all the stars break suddenly, all the many stars 
that live over southern gardens. 

But for us this evening will be only a quiet hour, nothing more; 
we shall sit in the remote little gardenhouse and think of those 
who are having Christmas; of our dear little Ruth and of our- 
selves, as if somewhere we were still the children we once were, 
the waiting, joy-frightened Christmas children, whom great 
surprises approach like angels from within and without; like 
children who feared and loved the darkness of those evenings 
that preceded the one evening; who felt how small, in those De- 
cember days that prepared the festival, was the circle of lamplight 
and how more and more mysteriously the room round about was 
lost, so that one couldn't say at all where its walls were, and 
whether one were not sitting at a round table in the middle of 
the woods. . . . Until all the dark was changed into radiance, 
so that one could see even the least things shining. 

But for all this to happen, there must have been great winds; 
one must have lived through long nights in which the storm was 
everything nights and days that were veiled, half -lit and faint, 
like a delaying of the morning merely until early evening, every- 
thing, even to that great, still snowfall that fell and fell and caused 
the world to move more gently, the day to pass more noiselessly, 
and night to come more secretly . . . 

i: J73 

To Lou Andreas-Salome (November 9, 1903) 

Villa Strohl-Fern, Rome 
January 15, 1904 

Lou, dear Lou, I am writing the date of your last letter over 
mine, only because I want to know that nothing you have 
written has been lost; the Italian postal service continually and in 
every possible way lends support to such distrust. 

Now, dear Lou, I am in my little gardenhouse, and after much 
unrest it is the first quiet hour in it; now everything in the simple 
room has its place, dwells and lives and lets day and night befall 
it; and outside, where there was so much rain, is a spring after- 
noon, are the hours of some spring that tomorrow perhaps will 
no longer be, but that now seems to come from eternity: so very 
poised is the light slender wind whose motion the leaves follow, 
the laurel's shiny leaves and the modest leaf -bundles on the scrub- 
oak bushes, so confident are the little reddish buds on the scarcely 
emptied trees, and so great is the fragrance that arises from the 
light grey-green narcissus field in my quiet garden valley that 
the arch of an old bridge meditatively spans. I have swept the 
heavy dregs of the rain from my flat roof and cleared withered 
oak leaves off to one side and that has made me warm, and now, 
after the little real work, my blood is ringing as in a tree. And for 
the very first time in a long while I feel just a tiny bit free and 
festive and as if you might walk into my home. . . . This happy 
feeling too will pass again, and who knows whether, behind the 
distant mountains, a rainy night is not in preparation that will 
again flood over my roof, and a wrenching wind that will again 
fill my ways with clouds. 

But that this hour may not pass without my having written 
you I do feel; for the few moments when I can write to you, 
when I am peaceful, clear, and lonely enough to draw near you, 
I may not lose, because I have much, much to say. In Paris, at 
Durand-Ruel, once in the spring of last year, antique paintings 
were exhibited, murals from a villa near Boscoreale being shown 

once again in their fragmentary, interrupted continuity before 
the hazard of auction tore them quite apart; they were the first an- 
tique pictures I had seen, and I have seen no more beautiful ones 
here, and they say that even the museum of Naples has no better 
paintings of that almost completely vanished time which must 
have had such great painters. Of these picture fragments one was 
preserved whole and undisturbed, although it was the biggest 
and perhaps the most sensitive; in this a woman was portrayed 
quietly sitting with serious, calm countenance, listening to a man 
who was speaking softly and lost in thought, speaking to him- 
self and to her with that dark voice in which destinies that have 
been are reflected like shores at dusk; this man, if I remember 
rightly /had laid his hands on a staff, folded them on the staff, 
with which he had long walked through distant lands; they were 
resting while he spoke (as dogs lie down to sleep when their 
master begins his tale and they see that it will last a long time ) ; 
but although this man was already deep in his tale, probably had 
a great stretch of memory before him still (level memory in which, 
however, the path often turned unexpectedly), yet one knew 
even at first glance that he was the one who had come, the traveler 
to this quiet, stately woman, the stranger to this tall, home-filled 
woman: so much was the quality of coming still in him, as it is 
in a wave upon the beach, still, even when it is already withdraw- 
ing, flat, shining like bright glass; the haste from which even a 
riper wanderer is not quite free had not yet fallen entirely from 
him; his feeling was still focused upon the unexpected and 
changing, and the blood was still going in his feet which, more 
excited than his hands, couldn't go to sleep. Thus were rest and 
movement juxtaposed in this picture, not as contrast, rather as 
an allegory, as a final unity that was slowly closing like a healing 
wound; for even the movement was already rest, laying itself 
down as quietly falling snow lies down, becoming landscape, 
as snow does when it spreads itself over the shapes of distance, and 
now the past, as it returned, took on the aspect of the eternal, re- 
sembling those events that comprised and transfigured the life 
of the woman. 


I shall always know the way in which that great simple pic- 
ture gripped me, that picture which was so very much painting 
because it contained only two figures, and was so significant be- 
cause those two figures were filled with themselves, heavy with 
themselves, and joined together by an unparalleled necessity. As 
the content of traditional legends is self-evident in good pictures, 
so I understood the meaning of this picture at the first moment. 
In that so thoroughly confused Paris time, when every painful 
and difficult impression fell into my soul as from a great height, 
the meeting with that beautiful picture acquired its decisive ac- 
cent; as if, beyond all that was impending, I had been permitted 
to look at something final, thus did the sight of it affect me and 
uphold me. Then the courage to write you, dear Lou, came into 
being; for it seemed to me as if every path, even the most con- 
fused, could acquire sense through such a final return to a woman, 
to the one woman dwelling in maturity and quiet, who is big 
and, like a summer night, knows how to hear everything: the 
little noises frightened of themselves and calls and bells. . . . 

But 1, Lou, your somehow lost son, for a long, long time to 
come I can be no teller of tales, no soothsayer of my way, no 
describer of my past fortunes; what you hear is only the sound of 
my step, still going on, still on undefined ways retreating, I do not 
know from what, and whether it is drawing near to anyone I do 
not know. Only that my mouth, when it has become a great 
river, may sometime flow into you, into your hearing and into 
the stillness of your opened depths that is my prayer, which I 
say to every hour that is powerful, to every anxiety, longing, or 
joy that can guard and grant anything. If my life is insignificant 
even now and often and often seems to me like an untilled field 
on which the weed is master and the birds of chance that search 
fastidiously through its untended seed, it will be only when I 
can tell it to you, and will be as you hear it! 

To Lou Andreas-Salome Villa Strohl-Fern, Rome 

March 17, 1904 

... I cannot help wondering every day whether the Russian 
war has not brought terror and danger to your family: your 
nephews, your mother, and you. That this evil had to come, this 
burden, this suffering for thousands who all feel war the way 
Garshin felt it: as calamity inflicted. 

God, had I strength, strength-savings were I not living, as 
I am, meagerly and fearfully enough even in this quiet, remote 
life, on the daily bread of strength, had I become something real 
(a doctor, which fundamentally I should have been ) , nowhere 
but in those dressing stations where Russians are grievously and 
terribly dying would be the place and the calling now for one 
who might use and bow himself . . . . 

"To Lou Andreas-Salome Villa Strohl-Fern, Rome 

Last day of March, 1904 

Christos voskres! . . . 

Ivanov and Gogol once wrote those words from here, and 
many are still writing them now from here into their eastern 
homeland. But alas, this is no Easter city and no country that 
knows how to lie beneath great bells. It is all display without 
.reverence, festival performance without festival. 

For me it was Easter just once; that was the time in that long, 
extraordinary, uncommon, excited night when people were all 
milling about, and when Ivan Veliky struck me in the darkness, 
stroke after stroke. That was my Easter, and I believe it will suffice 
for a whole life; the message was given to me writ strangely large 
in those Moscow nights, given into my blood and into my heart. 
I know it now: 

Christos voskres! 

Yesterday they sang Palestrina in Saint Peter's. But it was noth- 

ing. Everything dwindles away in that haughtily big, empty house 
that is like a hollow chrysalis out of which a dark giant butterfly 
has crept. But today for many hours, I was in a little Greek 
church; a patriarch was there in a great robe, and through the 
imperial door of the iconostas in a long file they brought him his 
ornaments: his great crown, his staff of ivory, gold and mother- 
of-pearl, a vessel with holy wafers and a golden chalice. And he 
accepted everything and kissed the bearers, and they were all old 
men who brought him those things. And later one saw them, those 
old men with their golden mantles and their beards, standing in 
the holy of holies about the great, simple, stone table reading for 
a long time. And outside, before the wall of pictures stood to 
right and left, facing one another, young convent pupils singing 
to each other with heads uplifted and throats stretched, like black- 
birds on spring nights. 

Then, dear Lou, I said Christos voskres to you. 

And then right afterward, when I came home, your card was 
there on which it was written. I thank you. 

And for the letter I thank you and for the dear picture. Much 
more was fulfilled by them than the one request; past things 
that were lost, and things to come that could not come, hold on 
to them and climb up by them, dear Lou. 

The war our war is almost like a physical unrest in me 
but I read little about it because I am quite unused to newspapers 
and they are abhorrent to me and because they do distort every- 
thing. In the Zeit (daily sheet of the Zeit) there was a few days 
ago the letter of a Russian officer which I am enclosing; of course 
they didn't even have the tact to print this simple, tremulous 
piece of news without an annoying introduction. Once I read 
too that the war would probably last for years; Kuropatkin was 
supposed to have said so; but that cannot really be possible! . . . 

It is good that you are in your house with the flowers that want 
to come; you are so near to your family too, and are after all at 
home and having the spring of the winter that you have lived. But 
your having been ill . . . ? 

Be well, dear Lou, for yourself and for those who need you. 

To Ellen Key Villa Strohl-Fern, Rome 

Easter Saturday, 1904 [April 2] 

I am answering all in one your good letter to Clara Rilke and 
the list of questions; I would like to have done it even earlier, 
two days ago, but the changeable warm-cold beginning of spring 
has, despite all precautions, again brought health disturbances, a 
cold and pains, so that I couldn't write. 

First, of the fact that to both of us, to Frau Clara and to me, 
your dear letter was a great joy; it was in every respect full of the 
way you are always and always so sweet and kind in thinking of 
us did us good with every word. 

You were sweet, so sweet to have had that thought about little 
Ruth, my dear friend. We have pondered much over it and 
spoken about it, and although we have finally had to see that the 
carrying out of such a plan would be impossible for us and for 
our feeling . . , still it was a joy to feel that you and your help 
are always near and alert! Thank you! 

It would be impossible, for one thing, on account of our now 
being able to use only space, peace, and work and not being far 
enough along even for a joy, not yet. But also on the little girl's 
account this daring change would not be possible. In the end 
it is really above all a question of her, of Ruth, of the growth of 
her little life being as untransplanted and quiet as possible, and 
not of us, of our joy in her. And we feel that in her present home 
in the quiet country house and the big garden she has everything 
that she needs and that we would give her if we could. There she 
has the healthful and vegetarian way of life that suits her well; 
as circumstances have now shaped themselves she has, over and 
above the most necessary, the precious abundance of quiet coun- 
try life, summer and winter, has my wife's little fourteen-year- 
old brother for friend and playmate, and lastly is not in the 
strangest of hands with my mother-in-law (a sensible and en- 
ergetic woman who loves her above everything) . We believe too 
that her little existence has already struck root in this ground and 


in the people who are about her, that one may not transplant her, 
not for the sake of bringing her into more uncertain circum- 
stances and to strangers. If Ruth were here, she would also have 
to be entirely with us, and since that is impossible for both 
parties, we must believe in that distant time when that will some- 
how happen of itself which would now seem premature and 
imprudent because, while it would indeed be the fulfillment of 
our wish and our longing, it would not correspond to our reality 
and to the necessary things that must now be done. 

We may now think only of work, not of other things, not of 
joy. Work itself must be the way that sometime will quietly and 
naturally bring the three of us together again, through it every- 
thing must happen, little by little and in long patience. For the 
present the knowledge that our dear little girl has everything her 
life needs for its best growth must make us happy and peaceful, 
and so it does to a certain degree. . . . That is the way we think 
and feel, dear Ellen Key, about all this, and you will understand 
how we have to live it and carry it through. But we thank you 
from our hearts for the care and love of your thought, which does 
us good even by itself, through its mere effect. . . . 

Now I will answer the question list: 

I first read Jacobsen in 1896-97 in Munich. I was very im- 
mature then and read sensing rather than observing, first Niels 
Lyhne, later Maria Grubbe. Since then these books, to which 
were added in 1898 the "six short stories" and the letters, have 
been influential in all my developments; and even today my ex- 
perience with them is that, wherever I may be standing, always, 
every time I want to go on, I find the next, the next higher, the 
approaching stage of my growth sketched out and already created 
in them. In these books much of what the best people are seeking 
even today is already found, derived from one life, at least. 
Jacobsen and Rodin, to me they are the two inexhaustible ones, 
the masters. Those who can do what I would sometime like to 
be able to do. Both have that penetrating, devoted observation 
of Nature, both the power to transform what they have seen into 
reality enhanced a thousandfold. Both have made things, things 


with many sure boundaries and countless intersections and pro- 
files: that is how I feel their art and their influence. . . . 

Immortality? I believe that nothing that is real can pass away. 
But I believe that many people are not real. Many people and 
many things. But that is hard to say, and I would like to avoid 
stating that I share this or that opinion, because in every such 
finished view something conclusive lies, whereas I nowhere feel 
myself concluded and finished, am rather nothing but change. 
I would like sometime to have an expression o] my very own for 
all that and, as long as I cannot yet find it, to attach myself to no 
opinion but simply to be silent and say: I do not know. 

Similar is the answer with regard to the black monk in the 
"White Princess." I meant nothing definite by him, I just 
wanted to make a black monk in the landscape, against the sea; 
I believe that the best figures are those which come into being 
for their creator without ulterior motive, simply as figures. The 
interpretation always rests with the reader and must be free and 
unlimited by any preconceived name; with Rodin's figures, for 
example, it is always so. He says: I make men and women, and 
that is how it must be. One must, I believe, make men and women 
without bothering about what they mean; the more meanings 
there is room for in them, the broader and more real they are. 
... I cannot say more; I felt that I had to have a figure for 
something inexpressible, for the stage needs a figure where 
otherwise perhaps words, verses, pauses might be : the figure 
came and was the black monk, because once years ago in Viareg- 
gio I had been deeply affected by the appearance of a begging 
black monk. I was standing at the window, and when he stepped 
into the garden, with his back toward the sea, a singular fear 
came over me; it seemed to me that I must not move because, 
having noticed me, he would interpret any movement as a beck- 
oning, as a call, and would come . . . . 

It is not impossible that among the women of my house were 
also some of Slavic blood; though not in recent times. Since the 
family settled in Bohemia, it was emphatically German in conse- 
quence of the situation there which compels a clear distinc- 


tion. But in earlier days at any rate (I still don't know enough 
about it) a number of alliances may very well have taken place 
through marriage with families of Bohemian stock. Much in me 
speaks for it. The Czechs, it is true, are not close to me, nor are 
the Poles (the union of Slavdom with the Catholic element has 
for me something intolerable in it ). But you do know what 
Russia is to me; what an event it was, finding it! And when I first 
came to Moscow everything there was known and long familiar; 
around Easter it was. And it touched me like my Easter, my 
spring, my bells. It was the city of my oldest and deepest mem- 
ories, it was a continual meeting again and greeting: it was 
home. . . . 

All, all kind things to you on your kind journey, dear friend. 
Tell people that I need patience and forbearance, but that I am 
all longing to do something good and important, something in 
the deepest sense necessary! . . . 

16* 3 

To Lou Andreas-Salome Villa Strohl-Fern, Rome 

April 15, 1904 

When as sometimes happens you are in a dream of mine, 
then that dream and its afterring on the following day are more 
real than all daily reality, are world and happening. I am thinking 
about it because the night before the eleventh and that day (the 
same on which you wrote your card) passed thus: in your pres- 
ence which makes me peaceful, patient, and good. 

There has been a lot of disturbance lately, and I had a presenti- 
ment too that disturbance after disturbance would come when 
I began my new work on the eighth of February; it became ap- 
parent then that my mode of working (as well as my much more 
receptive observation) had altered, so that I shall probably never 
again manage to write a book in ten days (or evenings), shall 
rather need for each a long and uncounted time; that is good, it 
is an advance toward the always-working that I want to achieve 
at any price; perhaps a first preliminary step in it. But in this 


change lies also a new danger; to hold off all external disturbances 
for eight or ten days is possible : but for weeks, for months? 
This fear oppressed me, and perhaps that in itself was primarily to 
blame for my work faltering and early in March breaking off, 
And what I took for a little disconnection and pause has, in spite 
of me, become a burdensome vacation that is still going on. 

My mother came to Rome and is still here. I see her only rarely, 
but as you know every meeting with her is a kind of setback. 
When I have to see this lost, unreal woman who is connected 
with nothing, who cannot grow old, I feel how even as a child 
I struggled to get away from her, and fear deep within me lest 
after years and years of running and walking I am still not far 
enough ' from her, that somewhere inwardly I still make move- 
ments that are the other half of her embittered gestures, bits of 
memories that she carries about broken within her; then I have 
a horror of her distraught pieties, of her obstinate faith, of all 
those distorted and perverted things to which she has clung, her- 
self empty as a dress, ghostly and terrible. And that still I am her 
child; that some scarcely recognizable wallpaper door in this 
faded wall that doesn't belong to anything was my entrance into 
the world (if indeed such an entrance can lead into the world 
at all . . .) ! 

That is difficult and confusing for me who have so much to 
make up and keep losing my courage. But there were other things 
too. People, who were coming to Rome and (though I have no 
social relations at all) expressed the intention of seeing me or 
making my acquaintance. A few even had introductions to me, 
and it cost me letters and apologies on all sides to hold them off. 
... At the same time the spring was growing in abrupt shifts 
of wind, and every day rose steeply from the frosty morning to 
its noon overheated by the sun, in such a way that naturally I 
did not escape a cold and the influenza-feeling. Ants in swarms 
broke out of all the walls of my little house and attempted in- 
vasion upon invasion. The first scorpions appeared, unusually 
big and early. And finally the painter came from whom we had 
taken over furniture in the fall (as a loan, unfortunately with 

1 48 

only a verbal and not sufficiently explicit understanding, accord- 
ing to which we would be able to buy it later if necessary), this 
painter returned to Rome and without further ado, forgetting 
any agreement, wanted his property back, so that now my little 
house, at one stroke, is almost empty. And after all I had looked 
out for those things all winter, they were my family, and I 
already had little roots in them. Now 1 am comforting myself 
with the fact that for the present I have been allowed to keep a 
bookcase and a bed, -that my standing desk belongs to me and 
that it fits with summer not to have many things about me. 

For what is going on here, heaven knows, has for three or four 
days not been spring any more, has been dense, young summer. 
The hyacinths in my little bed, which have long been hesitating, 
are flinging open their blossom eyes like one hammered awake 
by an alarm clock, and have already been standing there quite long 
and straight. The elms and oaks by my house are full, the Judas 
tree has shed its blossoms, and all its leaves will be ready over- 
night; and a syringa tree that stretched out its clusters only three 
days ago is already in process of fading and scorching. The 
nights are scarcely cool any more, and the busy clamor of frogs 
is their voice. The owls call less often, and the nightingale still 
hasn't begun. Will she still sing now that it is summer? 

Summer in Rome. That is a new misery. I thought it was still 
far off and was longing, now when my mother will be gone again, 
to have one or two not too oppressive months of work. And I am 
still hoping that it is possible, that it will still be spring again after 
a few trial summer days. (Aloreover I shall probably have to stay 
on here in summer too, for I have scarcely any possibility of going 
away, wouldn't know where to go, either. But that will only 
be the question after next; the next is about work and composure 
and I want to see that it is soon decided.) 

It is beautiful here in the big garden, even though not much is 
blooming there and though what is peculiarly Roman is perhaps 
too loud, too penetrating, to be called spring. Even these meadows 
full of anemones and daisies are too dense, too heavy, too tight- 
meshed, and in the skies are none of those gray days behind still 

_ ______ _ J49 

empty trees, those wide, transforming winds and the softly fall- 
ing rains that are for me the depth of all spring. It is, alas, a spring 
for foreigners who have only a little time, obvious and loud and 
exaggerated. But still there is a tree in the garden that might also 
be standing in the Tuscan scene, in an old cloister: a tall old 
cypress, all interleaved with a trail of wisteria that is now letting 
its light blue-violet pendants climb and fall everywhere, even to 
way up, out of the darkness of the tree; that is joy. That and 
the glorious fig trees, like altar candlesticks out of the Old Testa- 
ment standing there with their upward-curving branches and 
slowly opening their light-green leaves. 

And that I can now observe and learn all this calmly and pa- 
tiently Is, I feel, a kind of progress and preparation; but, you 
know, my progress is somehow like the faint steps of a convales- 
cent, uncommonly weightless, tottering, and beyond measure 
needing help. And the help is lacking. A help it would be to talk 
to you of many things and to see you listening and keeping silent; 
to read you something sometime. . . . But that writing you is 
also a help, dear Lou, I know if I think of the years when I did 
not have this refuge. 

Please: And now do get well! 

To Friedrich Westhoff Villa Strohl-Fern, Rome 

April 29, 1904 

Through Mother we have heard of you often lately, and with- 
out knowing anything more specific about you, we nevertheless 
feel that you are having a hard time. Mother will not be able to 
help you, for at bottom no one in life can help anyone else in life; 
this one experiences over and over in every conflict and every 
perplexity: that one is alone. 

That isn't as bad as it may at first glance appear; and again it 
is the best thing in life that each should have everything in him- 
self: his fate, his future, his whole expanse and world. There 
are moments, to be sure, when it is difficult to be in oneself and 

to persist within one's own ego; it happens that at the very in- 
stants when one should hold faster and one would almost have 
to say more obstinately than ever to oneself, one attaches one- 
self to something external, during important events transfers one's 
own center out of oneself into something alien, into another 
person. That goes against the very simplest laws of equilibrium, 
and only difficulty can come of it. 

Clara and I, dear Friedrich, have found ourselves and come to 
an understanding in the very fact that all companionship can con- 
sist only in the strengthening of two neighboring solitudes, 
whereas everything that one is wont to call giving oneself is by 
nature harmful to companionship: for when a person abandons 
himself, he is no longer anything, and when two people both give 
themselves up in order to come close to each other, there is no 
longer any ground beneath them and their being together is a 
continual falling. We have learned such things, my dear Fried- 
rich, not without great pain, have learned what everyone who 
wants his own life gets to know somehow or other. 

Sometime when I am older and more mature I shall perhaps 
get around to writing a book, a book for young people; not by 
any means because I think I have been able to do anything better 
than others. On the contrary, because from childhood on and 
during my entire youth everything became so much more diffi- 
cult for me than for other young people. 

So I learned over and over again that there is scarcely anything 
more difficult than to love one another. That it is work, day la- 
bor, Friedrich, day labor; God knows there is no other word for 
it. And look, added to this is the fact that young people are 
not prepared for such difficult loving; for convention has tried 
to make this most complicated and ultimate relationship into some- 
thing easy and frivolous, has given it the appearance of every- 
one's being able to do it. It is not so. Love is something difficult 
and it is more difficult than other things because in other con- 
flicts Nature herself enjoins men to collect themselves, to take 
themselves firmly in hand with all their strength, while in the 
heightening of love the impulse is to give oneself wholly away. 

But just think, can that be anything beautiful, to give oneself away 
not as something whole and ordered, but haphazard rather, bit 
by bit, as it comes? Can such giving away, that looks so like a 
throwing away and dismemberment, be anything good, can it be 
happiness, joy, progress? No, it cannot. . . . When you give 
someone flowers, you arrange them beforehand, don't you? But 
young people who love each other fling themselves to each other 
in the impatience and haste of their passion, and they don't notice 
at all what a lack of mutual esteem lies in this disordered giving 
of themselves, they notice it with astonishment and indignation 
only from the dissension that arises between them out of all 
this disorder. And once there is disunity between them, the 
confusidn grows with every day; neither of the two has anything 
unbroken, pure, and unspoiled about him any longer, and amid 
the disconsolateness of a break they try to hold fast to the sem- 
blance of their happiness (for all that was really supposed to be 
for the sake of happiness) . Alas, they are scarcely able to recall 
any more what they meant by happiness. In his uncertainty each 
becomes more and more unjust toward the other; they who 
wanted to do each other good are now handling one another in 
an imperious and intolerant manner, and in the struggle somehow 
to get out of their untenable and unbearable state of confusion, 
they commit the greatest fault that can happen to human rela- 
tionships: they become impatient. They hurry to a conclusion, 
to come, as they believe, to a final decision, they try once and 
for all to establish their relationship, whose surprising changes 
have frightened them, in order to remain the same now and 
forever (as they say). That is only the last error in this long 
chain of errings linked fast to one another. What is dead can- 
not even be clung to (for it crumbles and changes its character) \ 
how much less can what is living and alive be treated definitively, 
once and for all. Self -transformation is precisely what life is, and 
human relationships, which are an extract of life, are the most 
changeable of all, rising and falling from minute to minute, and 
lovers are those in whose relationship and contact no one mo- 
ment resembles another. People between whom nothing accus- 

tomed, nothing that has already been present before ever takes 
place, but many new, unexpected, unprecedented things. There 
are such relationships which must be a very great, almost un- 
bearable happiness, but they can occur only between very rich 
natures and between those who, each for himself, are richly 
ordered and composed; they can unite only two wide, deep, in- 
dividual worlds. Young people it is obvious cannot achieve 
such a relationship, but they can, if they understand their life 
properly, grow up slowly to such happiness and prepare them- 
selves for it. They must not forget, when they love, that they are 
beginners, bunglers of life, apprentices in love, must learn love, 
and that (like all learning) wants peace, patience, and composure! 

To take love seriously and to bear and to learn it like a task, 
this it is, Friedrich, that young people need. Like so much else, 
people have also misunderstood the place of love in life, they have 
made it into play and pleasure because they thought that play 
and pleasure were more blissful than work; but there is nothing 
happier than work, and love, just because it is the extreme happi- 
ness, can be nothing else but work. So whoever loves must try 
to act as if he had a great work: he must be much alone and go 
into himself and collect himself and hold fast to himself; he must 
work; he must become something! 

For, Friedrich, believe me, the more one is, the richer is all that 
one experiences. And whoever wants to have a deep love in his 
life must collect and save for it and gather honey. 

One must never despair if something is lost to one, a person or 
a joy or a happiness; everything comes back again more glori- 
ously. What must fall away, falls away; what belongs to us re- 
mains with us, for everything proceeds according to laws that are 
greater than our insight and with which we are only apparently 
at variance. One must live in oneself and think of the whole of 
life, of all its millions of possibilities, expanses, and futures, in 
the face of which there is nothing past and lost, 

We think so much about you, dear Friedrich; our conviction 
is this: that in the confusion of events you would long ago, by 
yourself, have found your own solitary way out, which alone 

can help, were not the whole burden of your year of military 
service still lying upon you. ... I remember that after my 
locked-up military school period my craving for freedom and 
my distorted consciousness of self (that had to recover only 
gradually from the bendings and bruises that had been admin- 
istered to it) would drive me into perplexities and desires that da 
not belong at all to my life, and it was my good fortune to have 
my work: in it I found myself and I am finding myself in it daily 
and am no longer looking for myself elsewhere. That is what we 
both do; that is Clara's life and mine. And you will also come 
to that, very certainly. Be of good courage, all is before you,. 
and time passed in the difficult is never lost. . . . 

To Ellen Key Villa Strohl-Fern, Rome 

April 29, 1904 

My friend, is it very indiscreet of me to long so much to hear 
from you again? Please, when a more quiet hour comes for you, 
write me a few words about how it was in Goteborg and in Co- 
penhagen what it meant to you and how people received it. You 
did send me a newspaper, but in the first place, it is in Swedish, 
and in spite of industrious spelling out and guessing, we did not 
grasp much of its account, and in the second place, I would 
like to know not about the external course of your lectures, 
rather about the inner life that was in you, dear Ellen Key, and 
that you felt in those to whom you spoke. How did you feel it? 
How was it? Is it indiscreet of me to ask about it? 

In the meantime I have received through the Insel publishing 
house the proofs of that translated fragment of your lecture that 
was to go in front of the book about God. Let me tell you first 
of all that those loving words which so delicately trace out my 
delicate seeking touched me infinitely; if now (in agreement with 
the publishers) I nevertheless do not want to place this fragment 
in front of the Stories of God, it happens from the following 

Those words, which are built up over passages from my recent 
letters like a quiet little church, lead and point too far out beyond 
the God book, which came into being four years before, clarify 
it too much, are keys to all its doors. Now I believe that this 
book, in which everything is anticipation (anticipated fear and 
anticipated joy), cannot well stand such an elucidation, that it 
must remain as it is, in all its darkness, that it must be alone with 
itself. The more so as with those words that point out beyond it 
not only is the old storybook about God placed in too bright a 
light (so that one sees its cracks and defects) but also a new 
book I am writing and with which I shall perhaps have to wrestle 
for a long time yet would appear too soon given away and dis- 
cussed. All of a sudden it seems to me dangerous to see my newer 
letter passage beside the clumsier, shyer words of the book about 
God; just because they stem from a so much further stage of 
development of the same thought cycle, they are hostile to the 
earlier transitions and do not look well beside them, rather the 
way with many plants it hurts to see blossoms and fruits side by 
side on the same stem. Above all then, for the sake of those 
<words of mine I shall not use that fragment as introduction to the 
new edition of the storybook; the book about God will come 
out alone, 'without a foreword, as it did the first time! You will 
understand my reasons no differently than as I mean and say 
them, dear Ellen Key, and you did also give me the right to tie 
and loosen and be master of the words that were destined for 
this purpose. 

Remarkably strongly the words of that fragment point to my 
growing book which will also be a book about God; this came 
about in part through the letters I wrote you from the midst of 
work, but also your kind and deep understanding of those 
passages led you close to the ways that, laboriously and with dif- 
ficulty, I am now trying to go. Again I have had bad weeks, 
from indisposition, hindrances, scribbling of all sorts and from 
the sudden high midsummer heat that broke in upon us with full 
force about ten days ago, crippling and destructive, heavy as lava. 

Now it has turned cooler again and I hope to become capable 

of work and effective again; for I long to get on with my 
work which is dear to me above everything, and to get through 
at least a section before the big Roman heat comes and with it 
the necessity of going away from here. . . . 

My wife sends you, dear Ellen Key, the most cordial of greet- 
ings. We rejoice in the good news of you and both think of you 
a great deal, gratefully and with love! 


My wife is very depressed by the climate, and (in spite of the 
fact that Italy has its benefits) I believe we (I too) do need the 
north soon again, distance, wind! It is sad for us to see this 
rapid, redundant, galloping spring that is a continual fading 
and burning up, and all our longing is with the slow, hesitant 
coming of northern spring days, with the great and heavy trans- 
formations of northern Nature in whose existence each little 
flower is a life, a world, a beginning, a destiny: a great deal. What 
is one little flower here where there are millions of blossoms! . . . 

To Lou Andreas-Salome Villa Strohl-Fern, Rome 

May 12, 1904 

Your letter, dear Lou, I have read often; it was just and good. 
When it came there was a great, quiet evening over the garden, 
and I read it slowly on the flat roof of my little house and pon- 
dered over it a long time. Perhaps, said something in me, I shall 
begin something good tomorrow morning, perhaps. And amid 
much suppressed hope there was a little bit of gladness in me : 

That was not to blossom; for the burden of my vacation time 
increased with every day. It had gradually grown cooler, and the 
disturbances had receded, and nevertheless things wouldn't be- 
gin to get better in me. . . . 

With this clear experience is linked the necessity for new de- 
cisions, and before I set about making one or another, I would 
like to tell you, dear Lou, a few things about myself, as well as 
I am able in these ineffectual days. Perhaps you will say some- 


thing to me in connection with this or that; which would mean a 
great deal to me; you know how much. (But if you are now in 
work, at your beloved work, put this letter aside, because it 
comes from a restless man; he can wait; he can wait as long as 
you want.) 

And then see: 

I have rented my little gardenhouse in the park of the Villa 
Strohl-Fern until fall (until October). I hoped to be able to stay 
on in it all summer (or at least the greater part of it); now I 
know that is not to be thought of. But I had the further intention 
of keeping the house for still a year more: for where should I 
ever find such another? A tiny little house, all to myself, with big 
windows and flat roof -terrace, containing a spacious bright simple 
room, and situated deep, deep in a private garden, inaccessible 
and secluded, and far removed from traffic and noise a feeling 
advised me to hold on to this place where all that can be mine, 
as long as the otherwise so uncertain and intolerable external 
circumstances of life in any way permit it; but now this same 
feeling tells me that I might persist in such favorable living pos- 
sibilities only if it all lay under a healthier sky, under which one 
may live all year without fear and dread. The fall was bad here, 
the winter^ with so much sirocco and the long rain, oppressive, 
and the spring everybody extols so is only a hastening into the 
dangerous summer, like a descent without a stopping place. 
What is more, people who live here maintain that one gets along 
with the Roman climate best as a novice, later worse and worse 
from year to year, and that one becomes more and more defense- 
less against the seasickness-mood of the sirocco days. 

And in addition (something that I already felt a year ago in 
Viareggio, where I attributed it to other circumstances ) I 
must in the past years have got far, far away from things Italian. 
My feeling everything so differently now from formerly is per- 
haps contributed to by my being in Rome and not in the Tuscan 
country which, with Botticelli and the Robbias, with marble- 
white and sky-blue, with gardens, villas, roses, bells, and foreign 
girls, spoke so intimately to me : but speak it did (and Rome 


speaks too), it did not keep silent and did not bluster: it spoke. 
It talked until my cheeks glowed (and I sometimes wonder 
whether that was the good and important thing for me and 
whether my first Viareggio, which closed with so great an ex- 
penditure into nothing, with such fireworks, was not already a 
proof that Italian influence is not among the things that really 
advance me) . 

However that may be, in any case more northern and more 
serious countries have since educated my senses to the subdued 
and simple, so that they now feel what is glaring and strong, 
schematic and uninflected in Italian things as a relapse into picture- 
book instruction. It came about quite of itself that I received and 
learned this very obvious and showy spring from a purely bo- 
tanical point of view, with the objective and quiet attentiveness 
which my observation is more and more assuming, that its move- 
ments and voices and the upward flight and course of its birds 
interested me quite objectively, without my ever sensing it as 
something entire, living, mysterious, as soul alive and bordering on 
my soul. I noted details, and since I have heretofore observed so 
little and in mere looking, as in so much, am a beginner I was 
content with such occupation, making progress in it. But if once 
it happened that I expected or needed something from the whole, 
I opened up and shut again, empty, and hungered deeply. As it 
would for a lung in a stuffy room, so it became difficult for my 
soul in an exhausted world into which nothing new comes with 
the spring, nothing distant and incalculable. I felt the great pov- 
erty that lies in richness: how with us a flower, a little first flower 
that struggles and comes, is a world, a happiness, to participate 
in which is infinitely satisfying, and how here herds of flowers 
come without anything stirring in one, without anything partici- 
pating and feeling akin and sensing its own beginning in other 
things. Here everything is given over to the easy, to the easiest 
side of the easy. Flowers come and blossoms, anemones bloom 
and wisteria, and one says it to oneself and says it again, as to 
someone hard of hearing. But it is all so ensnaringly sham and 
make-believe; colors are there, to be sure, but they always sub- 

ordinate themselves lazily to some cheap shade and do not de- 
velop from out of themselves. The Judas tree bloomed., bloomed, 
and bloomed, its redundant, unfruitful bloom welling even out 
of its trunk like blood-sodden mesentery, and in a few weeks 
everything: anemones and clover and syringas and starflowers, 
everything was purple with its purple, for God knows what rea- 
sons from laziness, from accommodation, from lack of original 
ideas. And even now the red roses, fading, are taking on this 
corpselike purple, and the strawberries have it if they stand for 
a day, and the sunsets puff it out, and it appears in the clouds in the 
evening and in the morning. And the skies in which such cheap 
plays of color take place are shallow and as if choked with sand; 
they are not everywhere, they do not play about things like the 
skies of the moor, of the sea, and of the plains, are not endless 
beginning of distance, are finish, curtain, end; and behind the 
last trees, which stand flat like theater wings against this indiffer- 
ent photographic background, everything ceases. It is indeed a 
sky over something past; drained, empty, forsaken sky, sky-shell 
from which the last sweetness has long ago been drunk. And as 
the sky is, so are the nights, and as the nights are, so is the voice 
of the nightingales. Where nights are vast, their tone is deep, and 
they bring it from infinitely far away and carry it to the end. 
Here the nightingale is really just a little lustful bird with a 
shallow song and an easily satisfied longing. In two nights even 
one becomes accustomed to its call, and one notes it with an in- 
ner reserve, as if fearing to hurt one's own memories by any 
more interest, the memories of nightingale-nights that are quite, 
quite different. 

Exhibition atmosphere, so typical of the city, is also the most 
obvious characteristic of the Roman spring: it is spring exhibi- 
tion that takes place here, not spring. The foreigners indeed en- 
joy it and feel themselves honored like little sovereigns in whose 
honor everything is shined up; for these respectable Germans, 
Italy must always have been a kind of royal journey with tri- 
umphal arches, flowers, and fireworks. But, in a certain sense, they 
are right: they come down here, weary of having winter, of 

making fires and of darkness, and find ready-made here all that 
is sunny and comfortable. More they do not ask. And of this sort 
too was probably the effect I sometimes used to get from Arco or 
from Florence and the benefit connected with it. But if as a 
native one has seen the whole winter here (full of the morose 
persistence of that which cannot die), then the miracle that is 
supposed to come fails. One knows that that isn't a spring, for 
one has seen none coming, that these blossoms have had as little 
difficulty in appearing at this place or that as decorations, for 
instance, have in being put up somewhere. And one compre- 
hends so well the illusory life of this past people, the empty phrases 
of its descendant-art, the garden-flower-beauty of D'Annunzio's 
verses. ' 

It is good that I have experienced all this so slowly and so con- 
cretely, for Italy had still been a summons for me and an un- 
finished episode. But now I can leave it, comforted, for the 
end is here. 

It will be hard for me, to be sure, because this little house stands 
on this spot and cannot be taken along and set up again in an- 
other, more northern garden; hard, because the new break comes 
unexpectedly and leads into the uncertain; hard because I am 
tired anyway of breaking off and starting again, 

... As to the question of earning a living, which bobs up 
again, threatening and demanding, with every change, there is 
this to say: that I am not closing my eyes to it and am not putting 
it off until it returns more urgently; I see it and always know 
that it is there. If nevertheless in the present choice of place I do 
not give it the most important voice, this is from the ever-growing 
conviction that my bread must one day come to me out of rny 
work; for it is work and as such necessary, and it must be possible 
(or become possible) to do it and to live, if only it is done well. 
Art is indeed a longest life-path, and when I think how trifling 
and elementary is what I have heretofore done, it does not sur- 
prise me that this achievement (which resembles a foot-wide strip 
of half-tilled land) does not nourish me. Plans do not bear, and 
what is prematurely sovm does not come up. But patience and 


work are real and can change at any moment into bread. . . . 

That is why, everything else aside, I want to decide on my 
next place of sojourn by my work and only by it. ... 

The works I have in mind and which are to occupy me in turn 

1. The "Prayers," which I want to continue. 

2. My new book (whose firm, close-knit prose is a schooling 
for me and an advance that had to come so that later sometime 
I could write everything else the military novel too), 

3. An attempt at a drama. 

4. Two monographs: 

The Poet: Jens Peter Jacobsen. 
The Painter: Ignacio Zuloaga. 

Both of these necessitate trips. The first a trip to Thisted and 
a stay in Copenhagen, the second a trip through Spain. (Zuloaga 
was, beside Rodin, the only person with whom I was closely and 
long in contact during my stay in Paris and whose importance 
and worth I feel and can say. Or shall be able to say. Sometime 
I will tell you about him.) 

But there is no hurry about these travels and books; probably 
I shall get first to Jacobsen. You can't imagine how necessary he 
has become to me; by always new paths I have gone to him, often 
alone, often with my wife (who reads him so well and so lov- 
ingly) ; indeed, it is even true that when one goes anywhere in 
the important one can be sure of coming out at a place where 
he too is (if one goes far enough) ; and how singular it is to find 
that his and Rodin's words agree often to the point of congruity: 
then one has that crystal-clear feeling one gets in mathematical 
demonstrations the moment two distant lines, as if out of eternity, 
meet at one point, or when two big complex numbers, that do 
not resemble each other, simultaneously withdraw in order, 
jointly, to acknowledge a single simple symbol as the thing that 
matters. Singularly untouched joy comes from experience of 
that sort. 

Besides these works, to accompany and supplement them, I 
have in mind several studies. I am already beginning to learn 

Danish, chiefly so that I can read Jacobsen and various things 
of Kierkegaard in the original. 

Then I began something in Paris that I would like to con- 
tinue: reading in the big German dictionary of the Grimm 
brothers, from which, it seemed to me, a writer can derive much 
wealth and instruction. For indeed one really ought to know 
and be able to use everything that has once entered into the lan- 
guage and is there, instead of trying to get along with the chance 
supply that is meager enough and offers no choice. It would be 
good if a pursuit like this led me now and then to read a me- 
dieval poet; that Gothic, which architecturally had so much to 
give that is unforgettable and vast, shouldn't it also have had and 
worked on a plastic language, words like statues and sentences 
like rows of pillars? I know nothing, nothing of it. Nothing, I 
feel, of all that I would like to know. There are so many things 
some old man should tell one about while one is little; for when 
one has grown up, knowing them would be a matter of course. 
There are the starry heavens, and I don't know what people have 
already learned about them, why, not even the order of the 
stars do I know. And so it is with flowers, with animals, with the 
simplest laws that are operative here and there and go through 
the world in a few strides from beginning to end. How life 
comes into being, how it functions in lower animals, how it 
branches and unfolds, how life blossoms, how it bears: all that I 
long to learn. Through participation in it all to bind myself 
more firmly to the reality that so often denies me, to exist, not 
only through feeling but also through knowledge, always and 
always: this it is, I believe, that I need in order to become more 
secure and less homeless. You will feel that I do not want sci- 
ences, for any one of them require a lifetime, and no life is long 
enough for its beginning; but I would like to stop being a person 
shut out, one who cannot read the deeper tidings of his time, 
that point further on and reach further back, a prisoner who 
senses everything but hasn't the little certainty of whether it is 
at the moment day or evening, spring or winter. I would like, 
somewhere where it can be done, to learn that which I probably 

1 62 

would know if I had had a chance to grow up in the country 
and among more essential people, and that which an impersonal 
and hasty schooling failed to tell me, and the rest, since discovered 
and recognized and belonging to it. It is not art history and other 
histories, not the nature of philosophic systems that I would like 
to learn, I want a chance to get and earn for myself just a few 
great and simple certainties that are there for everyone; I want a 
chance to ask a few questions, questions such as children ask, 
unrelated for those outside, but full of family likeness for me who 
know their birth and genealogy to the tenth generation. 

May 13, 1904 

Up to now universities have given me so little every time; I 
seem to feel such an aversion to their ways. But it lies also with 
my clumsiness which never and nowhere understands how to 
take; with my not having the presence of mind to recognize 
what I need; and of course one thing I haven't yet had either, 
the most important: patience. Perhaps that has all improved 
now; I shall no longer lack patience, at least, in anything. And if 
I don't attempt as before to hear disciplines read, in which one 
can be of this or that opinion words about words, conceptions 
of conceptions , but hear something real said, something new, to 
which all that is premonition in me says yes, I shall not even 
notice any unpleasantness in the external conditions or shall 
quietly endure it for the sake of what is important. I miss a 
learning-time of that sort more than anything else, not only be- 
cause I do not know so much that is simple and essential, but also 
because I always imagine that for me it must be the path on 
which I shall finally be able to help myself alone to what I shall 
later need in each case. That I am unable to do this, that I am 
helpless when left alone among books, a child whom one must 
lead out again, continually holds me up, dismays me, makes me 
sad, perplexed. If the pursuit of some scientific study were slowly 
to result in my learning to survey a subject, to sift and read the 
existing bibliography (not even to mention the finding), if I 
were to make my own the ability to study older books and old 


manuscripts too in short, if I might acquire on the side a little 
of the historian's craft and the archivist's patience and might hear 
spoken a few real truths and perceptions , then any place would 
suit me which would afford me such. It seems to me that without 
acquisitions of this kind I cannot take my next forward steps; 
after the Rodin monograph I thought of one on Carpaccio, later 
of one on Leonardo: what I lack for these is not an art historian's 
knowledge (which is just what I would like to avoid), but rather 
the simple craft of the research worker, the technical assurance 
and practice for which I must often envy quite young people; to 
the great libraries here and in Paris I lacked the key, the inner 
directions for use (to put it tritely), and my reading was fortui- 
tous reading because, for want of preparation, it couldn't turn 
into work. With my education, over which no plan lay, and with 
the intimidation in which I grew up (everywhere running into 
laughter and superiority and pushed back by everybody into my 
own clumsiness), it came about that I never got to learn at all 
much preparatory matter and most of the technical material 
of life, which later are effortless for everyone; my feeling is full 
to the brim of memories of moments when everyone about me 
knew and could do something and did it mechanically without 
thinking, while I, embarrassed, didn't know how to go about 
anything, wasn't even capable of watching and copying others. 
Like one who finds himself in a game the rules of which he doesn't 
know , I feel like a knot in the thread on thousands of occa- 
sions. Then I am a hindrance to others and a cause of annoyance 
but the same deficiencies hold me back myself and disconcert 

Once I sat a whole summer on the Schonaich's estate, alone 
in the family library whose archives are crammed with old 
correspondence and records and documents; I felt in every nerve 
the immediate proximity of destinies, the stirring and rising of 
figures from which nothing separated me but the foolish inability 
to read and decipher old symbols and to bring order into the un- 
sifted confusion of those papers. What a good, industrious sum- 
mer that could have been had I understood a little of the archi- 


vist's craft; something like a Maria Grubbe would perhaps have 
been given me in substance; at any rate I would have learned and 
gathered much from such close contact with the still untold hap- 
penings while as it was I only got new proof every day of my 
unfitness, of that being shut out, which life keeps making me ex- 
perience whenever I want to approach it anywhere. 

And not for work on monographs alone, for every work I do t 
I shall more and more miss such preparation and perspective; 
for my plans connected with things Russian, for instance, it has 
always been a hindrance and the reason why I progress so slowly 
in them. But wouldn't a schooling such as I have in mind (without 
being able to picture it exactly) enable me more surely to attack 
and hold on to all my work, wouldn't it too be a means of reach- 
ing that "tou jours travailler" which is what matters? 

So in sum my study projects read thus: 

1. I want to read books on natural sciences and biology and 
hear lectures that will stimulate the reading and learning of such 
things. (See experiments and preparations.) 

2. I want to learn work with archives and history, in so far as 
this is technique and craft. 

3. I want to read the Grimm brothers' dictionary, simultane- 
ously with medieval writings. 

4. I want to learn Danish. 

5. To continue reading Russian and now and then to trans- 
late from the Russian. 

6. To translate from the French a book of the poet Francis 

And to read carefully the following books: Michelet's natural- 
history studies and his history of France; the Eighteenth Century 
of the Goncourts . . . and other things. 

I thought for a while of attempting all this in Copenhagen; of 
going there in the fall and working there. 

But against it is 

the fact that I make my projected studies more difficult for 
myself if I go into a country with a foreign language, where hear- 


ing lectures has less sense and everything practical (such as the use 
of libraries, collections, and laboratories) also becomes compli- 

The fact that Copenhagen is a very big city and perhaps not 
beneficial to my health. 

. . . Do you know besides that just now in Copenhagen (in 
the Student Club, before a very full hall) someone spoke about 
my books? Yes, it really came about that Ellen Key, with a big 
lecture manuscript dealing only with my works, traveled to 
Stockholm, to Copenhagen and into God knows what Swedish 
cities on my account! There she told people about me, and 
now, she writes me, many are beginning to buy and read my 
books; and through this it was that she wanted to be useful and 
to help me. But not satisfied with that, she wants to have pub- 
lished in a Swedish periodical, and (translated) in a German one, 
a big essay which grew out of those lectures. She is a dear and 
capable person and has gradually become an indispensable friend 
to both of us, to my wife and to me (yes, even to little Ruth). I 
understand well and with heartfelt gratitude the nature of her 
help and activity, although I distinctly feel that such intercession 
for me is in no way justifiable; just now, while it is going on, 
I am watching her undertaking (confidentially speaking) with 
terror : for in reality and to less charitable eyes, nothing has 
actually been done, nothing demonstrable. A few things in the 
Book about God, in In My Honor and in The Book of Pictures 
(of the "Prayers" she knows nothing) could speak for me; but 
I am afraid she has presented all that as much less mixed and has 
given everything a semblance of conclusiveness which it doesn't 
possess and in which people will feel cheated when they buy my 
books now. Also she has based much of what she said (as it seems 
I am not acquainted with the essay yet, only a small fragment 
of it) on passages from my letters of recent years and has found 
out the sort of things that cannot be deduced from my thus far 
published works. And over and above all this I feel: if anybody 
needs seclusion, it is I. (Every line and every perplexity of this 


letter, but also that in which it is determined, speaks for it .) 
Nevertheless, I do see that I must agree to everything that can 
support my existence and prolong the possibility of remaining 
at my work. And for that such a being named and proclaimed is 
surely good. Furthermore that has all come through the lips of 
a refined and discreet person and (even if it has happened much 
too early) can have no bad consequences. It also turned out in 
due course that there were young people here and there in Sweden 
who already knew about me, even some who could recite verses 
from my books by heart; and it came to light incidentally that 
one of the young Swedish writers was just in the process (in- 
dependently and without knowledge of Ellen Key's intention) 
of collecting material for an essay on my work. . . . 

Dear Lou, if it were possible to meet you this summer, do, 
please, let it be possible. I see for miles around no thought, no 
confidence, in which I believe so much that they would help me. 

Meantime comes this letter, running through two days with 
its length and making many presumptuous demands upon you; 
be very indulgent toward it. The writing of it has helped me 
infinitely; it has been like an activity after all these weeks of im- 
mobile inner numbness. There are, as I come to think of it, 
certain little animals, beetles, and insects, that fall into such states 
of arrested life if one touches them or comes near them; often I 
have watched them, have noticed that they let themselves be 
rolled along like things, that they do everything to be as like 
things as possible: they do this when they see a danger's bigness 
coming toward them and want to save themselves. Has my 
condition like causes? Is this becoming numb and keeping still 
that goes to my very core, up to the very entrance of my heart's 
chambers, an instinctive defense by which something that can 
annihilate me is to be deceived? Who knows? 

I will trust and not count the time and will wait for it to pass, 
But then bestir myself, for nothing has yet been done. . . . 

i6 7 

To Clara Eilke Borgeby gard, Fladie 

Province of Skane, Sweden 
July 9, 1904 

... a big wind is coming over from the Sund, the garden is 
foaming, and when one looks up, one sees very bright little 
patches of distant meadows appearing and vanishing behind the 
flickering leaves of the bushes. In the beds the roses are begin- 
ning to blossom, rather stunted roses for which no one really 
has time, blossom and fade, very quickly it seems to me. Today's 
storm is casting off many that yesterday were not yet there, and 
now they lie in the grass like torn-up letters. In the wallflower 
bed a spray of blossoms has been open for days, but big mallows, 
dahlias, and many other things are all still to come. In the many- 
branched, wonderfully drooping laburnum tree, are hanging 
the little grey-violet pod-bundles of its fruits and their pallor 
permeates the whole tree and withdraws it from all the rest, 
makes it recede, veils it almost. In the round, tower-high haw- 
thorn shrub the little rose-blossom bouquets have turned brown, 
but behind it the white jasmine is still blooming in single dense- 
white blossoms, visible from way off, that are grouped together 
like constellations, far apart for all their nearness. And very large, 
like the beginnings of some piece of yellowish Brussels lace, lie the 
large, flat blossom-patches of the elder bushes in their taffeta- 
dull foliage. And their smell on still mornings (when their scent 
is not torn and can collect and concentrate itself) is like the 
strong scent of the sweat of young girls who have chased each 
other and have run over meadows and are now arriving hot and 
disheveled, with a strained, almost angry seriousness in their faces 
and quite exhausted laughter. But today, in the blow, every 
scent is thin, fluid, passes by, comes back weak and mingled with 
distance and again goes by. From the walnut tree and from the big 
full chestnuts, torn-off fruits strike with a hard, startling clang, 
and down below the little river is all combed up on its surface 
and ruffling up against the Sund that pushes it back into its mouth. 


The bulls, far away on the westward pasture, are quiet, multi- 
colored, massive things, but the calves yonder are merry and play- 
ful, and sweep along with them the horses that suddenly come gal- 
loping up, turn, trot and assemble with sturdy action. And above, 
sky in misty, distant, transparent white that has slowly formed out 
of mounting clouds, while the sun kept breaking through and 
disappearing, so that the day already seems very long. 

Fraulein Larsson went to Lund this morning, and I am sitting 
under the big walnut tree (as long as it isn't raining yet) and am 
quite alone at Borgeby gard, of whose history and inhabitants I 
already know a great deal now; much from old descriptions la- 
boriously picked out in Swedish, still more that is conjecture and 
much that I merely sense. Before me stands Bishop Birger's tower, 
quite spoiled by the restoration of the next to last owner, but still 
his tower, a thing known and discussed among the people of 
all Skane. In the church, under the bell-loft, is preserved (care- 
lessly enough) a triptych portraying Hans Spegel, knight and 
chamberlain of Frederick II, and the two so very dissimilar mis- 
tresses of his house. And in the narrow, prisonlike crypt, under 
the nave, three skulls and a few strong masculine bones lie be- 
tween crumbled bits of coffin and belong perhaps to the picture 
under the bells. And on the western gable of the house, simply 
wrought like iron fastenings, are still the initials of Hans Spegel's 
heirs: <B,"Otto Lindenow and his wife Elsa Juel 1638." Then 
came owner after owner, many from Sweden's greatest families, 
Counts von Trolle, von Bonde, Barons von Ramel, von Hastfer, 
Counts De Geer and von Wachtmeister (from whom Hanna 
Larsson acquired the castle). It passed from name to name, be- 
cause it was always handed down as an inherited estate on the 
maternal side from daughter to daughter and with each of their 
husbands got a new master. Nevertheless the women were always 
the real proprietors, whether it was that they were more indus- 
trious and more often in residence than the foreign lords to whom 
they gave themselves, whether (as happened mostly) it was that 
they outlived them, long outlasted them: for they were all of an 
upright, sturdy house that bore aging. Of all these no sign nor 


evidence has remained here; it is to be assumed that the last counts 
who were its lords, allied by marriage to those old families, took 
off everything in any way relating to them. Only for that one 
lady of the house of Hastfer there are two old, weather-beaten 
memorial stones in the park that speak gently of a life gently 
passed. The one stone was erected by Colonel Carl Bergenstrahle 
for Brita Sophie Hastfer who, after a long maidenhood, became 
his wife at the age of 43, and also records her death, which took 
place 1 3 years later. The other stone (without date) comes from 
the son of a sister of Brita Sophie (who was childless) and only 
says once more that she was dear and good and that they cannot 
forget her. 

So it was always women's destinies that passed away at Borgeby 
gard, flowed along, or hesitated to pass on. And strangely: again 
(after Fraulein Larsson's father bought it) it has come into a 
daughter's hands; again, as five and six centuries ago, a strong, 
prudent woman is residing at Borgeby, of an old peasant family, 
energetic and good and capable of outliving perhaps many suitors. 

And in the tops of the old beech trees dwell the tribes of ravens, 
hundreds and hundreds of them; and when in the evening they 
fly in, in flocks, screaming, the treetops grow small under them; 
and when swarm upon swarm goes up once more and mounts and 
circles, there is a noise as of many dresses and fans, only much 
louder. And surely there is one among them, an old one with a 
good memory for tradition, who in his thoughts is continuing 
the chronicle of Borgeby and (in the foreshortening in which 
he sees her) comparing Hanna Larsson with Brita Sophie, with 
Vivika Bonde, and with Elsa Maltesdotter Juel! . . . 

To Clara Rilke Borgeby gard, Fladie 

Province of Skane, Sweden 
July 19, 1904 

. . . Saturday toward eight, we drove in the carriage to 
Bjerred (station for the train to Lund), which is at the same 

time a little seaside resort, and from a wooden bridge built far 
out into the quiet sea watched the evening dying away in many 
cloudy and watery grays. Yesterday, Monday, I was in Lund and 
on the way home in the evening spent another hour alone on 
that wooden bridge. It was the evening of a very windy day, and 
the broad storm thrust a tremendous night-gray cloud-continent 
over the sky and set free the sun that was sinking , so that two 
seas lay beneath it, separated by a strip of dazzling radiance: a 
wholly shadowed, gray, restrained, heavy one and a light, ani- 
mated, shiny one that quivered far and wide and without ceasing 
and whispered excitedly to itself. 

After two days of great warmth we are having a big, powerful 
wind; unfortunately one doesn't feel it in the windows because 
the house stands behind its walls of tree and bush as in a room. 
But outside, on the road that forms the margin of the park toward 
the meadows, it is very big, and the rustling and shaking of the 
trees is full of passion. 

Today, toward morning, a little horse was born in the pasture. 
I think I on my early walk was the first to see it. Little, light 
brown, scrubby, with a short neck, slightly dizzy head motions, 
narrow little body bound about the ribs, it stood on four stiff, 
much too long legs very close by its brown, relieved mother who 
slowly and cautiously began to graze. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Borgeby gard, Fladie 

Province of Skane, Sweden 
July 24, 1904, Sunday, toward evening 

... I am not idle, and there is nothing lazy in me; all sorts 
of currents and a stirring that through depth and surface is the 
same. A very good stirring. I am not even writing a journal, 
just keep hoping to get through all sorts of letters yet to be 
written and to read my way through all sorts of books yet to be 
read. That I am making attempts to read Danish, three to four 
hours a day, is something too and wants time and gets it, and 


wants strength. In spite of all this it seems to me that I am 
building; at the invisible, at the most invisible, at some founda- 
tion; no that is too much; but that I am breaking ground for 
something that is to be erected there sometime; a perfectly in- 
conspicuous activity for which day laborers and hod carriers 
suffice (one thinks). 

That is only to say how matters stand here; it is said without 
complaint and without regret. Perhaps it would be best if I 
christened this time recreation, and lived it that way (one 
shouldn't mix recreation and work, half and half, as is always 
happening out of faintheartedness and failing strength), but for 
that I do lack the zest, lack something or other that I ought to 
have done beforehand. A point of departure, a testimonial, an 
examination passed before myself. 

Well, even so, the way it is and is going, this time will be good 
for me, if not in collecting, still in preparing to collect myself. 
Summer was really never and nowhere my high time. Always and 
everywhere the point was to live through it; but the autumn this 
year should be mine again. If I were then living in a quiet room 
among great autumnal broadleaved trees, near the sea, alone and 
well and left in peace (and this might all by most fortunate chance 
be found near Copenhagen and the Sund), a great deal could 
alter in my life, much good could then be brought into the 

. . . Petri. Yes, I too remember an excellent conversation with 
him about Edgar Allan Poe. A lot in it was vital, though in a 
temperamental direction especially there were disagreements we 
did not clear away. He is growing without doubt, which is why 
he is in great straits too, and that is the sympathetic thing about 
him: that he remains in great straits. For years in continually new 
straits, in genuine (even if perhaps self -sought, invoked) straits. 
May he never find his way out of them: musicians are full of ways 
out, corresponding to the easy solutions their art puts at their 
disposal. Only when they despise and reject solution after solu- 
tion, as Beethoven did in his living or Bach in his praying, do they 
grow. Otherwise they simply increase in circumference. 

. . . Taken absolutely, without regard to the inferior con- 
versation that fills up the whole world, even the most admirable 
conversation now seems to me like a dissipation. I thought this 
recently of an evening here when (in French to boot) I was 
talked into saying a few important things, felt it after the exhaust- 
ing conversations with Norlind at the beginning of my stay here. 
What a bitter taste, what a spent feeling, what a morning-after- 
the-night-before mood remains! And how guilty one feels! I 
always used to believe it came from a regret that one had given 
oneself out to someone not quite fine, mature; but no, it comes 
simply from the fact that giving oneself out is sin, is music, is 
surrender. At bottom one must lock oneself up before one's best 
words and go into solitude. For the word must become flesh. That 
is the world's secret! , . . 

To Clara Rilke Borgeby gard, Fladie 

Province of Skane, Sweden 
July 27, 1904, evening 

. . . For a while at least, I have begged out of having to take 
supper; so near bedtime it is one meal too many for me and then: 
for the most part we end by staying together afterward, going 
out together, talking; good for one who by evening has had his 
day's work (although for him too silence and solitary celebra- 
tion would be more important than the wearier ring of words), 
but bad for me, to whom the evening means the core, the fruit 
and fullness of the day. To have to talk in the evening, not to be 
alone in the evening, to laugh in the evening : to me that means 
unraveling a day thread by thread, seam by seam; the whole pat- 
tern dissolves into long threads, all the work pours back into 
my hands, and I begin a difficult, a reproachful night. For that 
reason and in order to use this time here, as much as I can, for 
my soul's best hunger , I have taken the evenings for myself. 

. . . Now it is ... Thursday morning, there are still torn 

night clouds in the light sky, little .bird-sounds are stirring every- 
where; perhaps rain is coming. (They want it very much, that is, 
the people connected with the land need it. For three weeks there 
has been sunny dryness, and the corn that promised such good 
things is spoiling; it is ripening, ripening, but without quite de- 
veloping inside, which is indeed a misfortune.) 

. . . Thanks for Kappus' letter. He is having a hard time. And 
that is just the beginning. And he is right in this: in childhood 
we have used up too much strength, too much strength from 
grownups, that is perhaps true of a whole generation. Or is 
true over and over again for individuals. What is one to say to 
this? That life has infinite possibilities of renewal? Yes, but this 
too: that the using up of strength is in a certain sense still an 
increase of strength; for fundamentally it is only a matter of a 
wide circle: all the strength we give away comes back over us 
again, experienced and transformed. It is so in prayer. And what 
is there that, truly done, would not be prayer? . . . 

And one more thing with reference to the thoughts of re- 
covery. There are here, in among the field-kingdoms, spots of 
dark, untilled land. They are empty, and yet they lie there as if the 
light stalks round about were there for their sake, rows of pickets 
for their protection. I asked what these dark strips of land were 
all about. They told me: c'est de la terre en repos. So beautiful, 
you see, can resting be, and that is how it looks alongside work. 
Not disquieting, but such that one acquires a deep trust and the 
feeling of a big time. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Borgeby gard, Fladie 

Province of Skane, Sweden 
July 29, 1904, Friday 

... So it didn't rain yesterday; toward evening a blow came 
up; high above, inaccessible and destined for another earth, clouds 
passed by, cloud after cloud, and by nightfall everything far and 

wide was free again, almost empty in its clarity, like a maneuvei 
field after the review. Then the moon rose again, and I went once 
more through the park, over whose great silence flocks of crows 
were describing their last circles ... I walked and didn't stop 
until the edge of the park, before the dark grazing-meadows, 
from which through the great stillness comes the crunch of 
chewing and warm, subdued munching. And powerful fragrance 
and distance and absence of human beings. . . . Every moment 
I see something. I have also learned a lot from Hokusai in this 
looking through the Mangiva. A path, the ground dark, rhyth- 
mically strewn with the twin fruits of a maple tree : that would 
have become one of his thousand prints. The laburnum bush with 
its fruit husks hanging there like old-fashioned earrings, the jas- 
mine that won't stop blooming and whose stars form whole 
milky ways in the darkening green; and the fruit trees, these 
above all, with their work-boughs that give one to see their over- 
burdened existence and the laborious summer; and the meadows 
on which their shadows unfold like plays with many disguises. 
And farther on the flowers in the bed that have nothing to bear, 
that are only lighted for a while and burn like candles . . .(it 
occurs to me, don't night butterflies think lights are flowers?). 
And the ornamental trees that have been growing for ever 
and ever, the chestnuts that have space for whole halls under 
them, and the one old blooming linden opposite the entrance, 
whose round cupola is the last gold of the evening when every- 
thing grows dark : there is enough to look at, for there is much 
more still. The world is like that, but here and there are painters 
searching for motifs, painters who break five little stones out of 
the great mosaic in order to combine them in some harmony. And 
perhaps it is not only painters who are like that (for then they 
would be the most Godforsakei) people alive), perhaps people 
in general are like that : haven't they made even life out of little 
motifs, aren't their joys and their troubles, their professions and 
riches merely motifs? Alas! and real life is like the real world. 
And lies there like a pasture from which, in the evening, comes 
warm breath and scent and absence of human beings. . . . 


To Tora Holmstrom Borgeby gird 

August 2, 1904 

That you, Fraulein Holmstrom, thought of me with kind re- 
gards does me a lot of good; I have sometimes thought, since 
you left us, that our talks might have troubled and disturbed 
rather than refreshed you; for the things we said were frag- 
ments, detached at random from large contexts, without begin- 
ning and without conclusions, without issue. 

So I am glad that yesterday in Lund I found a little book, which 
(seems to me) carefully takes up many threads that we let fall 
and weaves them into a lovely pattern. That it is by Hugo von 
Hofmannsthal, whom you wanted to read, and can serve very 
well as introduction to Stephan George's poetry, is an added 
agreeable circumstance. 

But what also quite especially makes me want to put this book 
in your hands is the way in which in both its essays the figure of 
Goethe as a poet has been treated. Through its being / who am 
allowed to transmit to you these distinguished words of. great 
admiration for Goethe, I hope to tear up, like a letter that has 
become worthless, the memory of a certain evening talk that 
must be irksome to you. You must ascribe it to my loneliness, 
to my small experience in expressing myself in conversation, that 
I was able to carry on so absurdly that time; for I have no right 
to say more than this: that I lack the organ for receiving from 
Goethe; more I really do not know. 

And that I respectfully acknowledge what life has taught you 
to call Goethe, the breadth and clarity that begin for you with 
this name, that is what I should have said (as I knew imme- 
diately afterward) instead of all those childish words. 

If the little book becomes acceptable to you in the days by 
the sea, I beg you to keep it. It is against Nature to part from 
books with which one has an understanding, just as it is im- 
portant in similar case not to keep people too long. . . . 

I 7 6 

tv 3 

To Clara Rilke Borgeby gard, Fladie 

Province of Skane, Sweden 
August 10, 1904 

. . . We are again amidst wind which is almost cold and with- 
out limit. (What skies it built yesterday evening! ) 

I walk about a great deal in this bluster, only sometimes I 
stand by the wallflowers, by the mallows (many have already 
opened . . . ) or in the scent of the phlox. And am thought- 
ful ... 

To Clara Rilke Borgeby gard, Fladie 

Province of Skane, Sweden 
August 12, [1904] Friday 

... see the wind is so big and wide and does not cease; it 
roars all night and only quiets down when a rain falls, and the 
rain grows heavier and heavier and roars too. Autumn? Why 
not; for everything is ready, the fruit is big, and the little storks 
are no longer distinguishable from the big ones. And along by 
the highway there is a part of the park that is not swept and not 
raked on Saturday; there are weeds there, all burned and droop- 
ing, and the half -grown chestnuts have many yellow leaves and 
are shedding them one by one; not when it storms: then they 
summon up their strength and hold on as tight as they can; but 
afterward, when it becomes so expectantly still, then they scat- 
ter, leaf by leaf, a lot of great, yellow, twisted leaves. There are 
decayed thistles there with sad little purple heads, thistles that 
have grown tall like that without thinking; birches are there 
that are all tremulous, and perhaps they have been so all sum- 
mer , but now it looks as if they were intentionally and joy- 
fully so, and the clouds pass behind them, and one can see right 
through them everything that happens in the skies. And a kind 
of pensive, faded fragrance goes about, as from flowers the sun 
has dried and the wind has pressed, and it is autumn. And so I 

_ IT? 

often walk up and down there now and avoid the place under 
the walnut tree and all my summery paths; for I want the autumn! 
Doesn't it seem as if autumn were the real creator, more creative 
than spring, which all at once is, more creative, when it comes 
with its will to change and destroys the much too finished, much 
too satisfied, indeed almost bourgeois-comfortable picture of 
summer? This great glorious wind that builds sky upon sky; into 
its land I would like to go, and along its roads. And perhaps you 
have it about you too in your own home garden and see its image 
of a morning in the trees it stirs. . . . 

I 13 3 

To Lou Andreas-Salome Borgeby gard, Fladie 

Province of Skane, Sweden 
August 1 6, 1904 

. . . I haven't done much; I have learned to read a little Danish 
from books by Jacobsen and Hermann Bang and from the letters 
Soren Kierkegaard wrote to his fiancee; translating these letters 
has been almost my only work. ... I feel as if I had had much 
too much summer and too much sun. Everything in me is wait- 
ing for the trees to strip themselves and for the distance beyond 
them to become visible with its empty fields and with the long 
roads into winter. . . . 

To Arthur Holitscher Borgeby gard, Fladie 

Province of Skane, Sweden 
August 17, 1904 

. . . You must not upset the Roman plan for my sake, dear 
friend; it has in it so much that is good. The other, concerning 
London, I cannot judge. Everything English is far away and for- 
eign to me; I don't know the language of that country, almost 
nothing of its art, none of its poets; and London I imagine as 
something very distressing. You,know my fear of very big cities; 

also I shall probably never go farther west, since after all every- 
thing keeps calling me to Russia. If sometime, somewhere, any- 
thing like home could be given me, it will be there in that wide 
sorrowful land. ... 

To Clara Rilke Borgeby gird, Fladie 

Province of Skane, Sweden 
August 17, 1904 

... it is Wednesday today, and I think a letter will come 
from you, written Monday; have been thinking so since getting 
up and look forward to it. 

Here the big storm is still on; in the park on the quieter private 
paths one can hear it, and when one rounds a corner into the 
open, the whole country rushes upon one, the roads come run- 
ning, and the little river comes back all ruffled from the sea, 
instead of going toward it. It is strange then, in all this activity, 
to see the calm of the grazing animals; the grass blows under their 
feeding and stirs, but they are calm and dark and self-absorbed. 
Even the little foal is out on the windiest meadow with its brown 
mother (who is nourishing herself vigorously); already it is a 
regular little rocking horse, when it jumps up and down with its 
long stiff legs and rejoices. But mostly it lies in the grass, flat on 
its side and motionless. Only its thin tail flips from time to time 
across its flank. From the distance one sees only its body in the 
green, and then it looks, in form and color, like a very large, ripe 

Torsten Holmstrom, the student, is here again now; he goes 
hunting with Norlind, and last evening they shot a seagull. A 
big seagull. You ought to see it ... maybe you would draw one 
of its wings. They are magnificently constructed, so sure and 
compact and all of gray silk; but you should draw the under side 
which is more beautiful by far; everything is more delicate there 
and as ineffably untouched as a young cloud. And those con- 
tours: so sure and necessary, feather upon feather, and yet as 

m _ J79 

delicate as in a Rodin drawing. Or in Japanese prints; of them the 
color of the whole too reminds one. There is white and gray. 
But from the last white to the gray's first beginning there is still 
a world of color, a thousand transitions that have no name. There 
is hesitant white that, hard before the gray, turns back into itself 
again, and gray that flashes and wants to turn white. There is 
the gray of fish scales and the gray of water and the tremulous 
gray of damp air : as though the mirror of this outspread pinion 
had preserved everything that happened below it. 

It is the time anyway when one sees many things flying: as 
though the great wind were drawing the birds with it, so they 
come up sometimes in its current and drift away off over the 


To Tora Holmstrdm Borgeby gard, Fladie 

August 24, 1904 

... I have so often asked myself whether the days on which 
we are compelled to be idle aren't the very ones we spend in the 
deepest activity? Whether our actions themselves, when they 
come later, are not merely the last af terring of a great movement 
that takes place in us on inactive days? 

In any case it is very important to be idle with trust, whole- 
heartedly, if possible with joy. The days when even our hands 
do not stir are so uncommonly still that it is scarcely possible to 
live them without hearing a great deaL . . . 

To Lou Andreas-Salome Furuborg, Jonsered 

October 19, 1904 

... I see that I can't get on with my work this way; that I 
must open up new tributaries to it, not because the tributaries of 
all happening and existence are too meager, only: because I 
cannot order, cannot combine them. I must learn to grasp and 

i So 

hold: I must learn to work. I have been telling myself that for 
years and yet go bungling on. Hence the guilty conscience; all 
the guiltier when others have confidence in me. My immediate 
family; my father, who is patient with me now in such a sad way; 
Ellen Key; the people here in the house. I cannot be happy in 
my own eyes, and that is why I am never happy. 

I lack perhaps just a few knacks and helps. If only the first 
door were opened to me, then I think I would know all right how 
to handle the mechanism of the others. And if water now, a great 
deal of water, suddenly came over my wheels, some tributary 
that knows how to plunge and roar, perhaps the whole misery 
of this sluggish milling would be over forever. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Furuborg, Jonsered 

October 28, 1904 (Friday) 

. . . Only now is the big birch bare that one saw from the win- 
dows of Furuborg hanging against the lake-distance; only now 
are all the paths quite covered with leaves, only now does one 
see the white house from afar. Everything is brown, reddish- 
brown, and brown in brown. At intervals one sees pale green 
strips of meadow, and the firs and pines are a dense dark winter- 
dress green. Only now and then a quite golden birch is held up 
high above everything, like a monstrance, into the sunset. . . . 

I 791 

To a young girl November 20, 1904 

My greeting you with only a few words, out of much occupied 
days, will seem ungrateful to you; since you managed to find 
time to tell me such nice things? 

Your words were a welcome message to me. I will write you 
only that. I am happy to know about you, in order to imagine 
you sometimes and to surround you with wishes: may life open 
up to you, door by door; may you find in yourself the ability 

to trust it, and the courage to give to the difficult most confi- 
dence of all. To young people I would always like to say just 
this one thing (it is almost the only thing I know for certain up 
to now) that we must always hold to the difficult; that is our 
part. We must go so deep into life that it lies upon us and is 
burden: not pleasure should be about us, but life. 

Think: isn't childhood difficult in all its unexplained connec- 
tion? Aren't girlhood years difficult do they not like long 
heavy hair pull your head into the depths of great sadness? And 
it must not become otherwise; if for many life suddenly becomes 
easier, lighterhearted and gayer, that is only because they have 
ceased to take it seriously, really to carry it and feel it and fill 
it with their own entity. That is no progress in the meaning 
of life. That is a renunciation of all its breadths and possibilities. 
What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to 
deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that 
work on us. Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our 
happiness, our dreams: there, against the depth of this back- 
ground they stand out, there for the first time we see how beau- 
tiful they are. And only in the darkness of the difficult does our 
smile, so precious, have a meaning; only there does it glow with 
its deep, dreamy light, and in the brightness it for a moment 
diffuses we see the wonders and treasures with which we are 
surrounded. That is all I know how to say and to advise. What- 
ever else I have known or grasped beyond all knowing is in my 
verses, which you read with so much affection. 

It is so natural for me to understand girls and 'women; the deep- 
est experience of the creator is feminine : for it is experience 
of receiving and bearing. The poet Obstfelder once wrote, when 
describing the face of a strange man: "it was" (when he began 
to speak) "as if there were a woman in him "; it seems to me 
that would fit every poet who begins to speak. . . . 


To Clara Rilke Furuborg, Jonsered 

Thursday, December i, [1904], evening 

. . . now for the first time I really know what winter is and 
winter- joy. And think you must have it someday, this real winter 
gladness, white in white and soft and fresh. Or we must both 
have it together, here in this dear northern land or in Russia some- 
time. Must sit in a little, completely fur-covered sleigh, just like 
the one in which I drove out today with Frau Lizzi. Only two 
people in that little gliding seat and before us one of the tall 
horses with a three-belled chime on the harness and connected by 
a white, wide-meshed, protecting net trimmed with tufts of wool 
to the dashboard of the little sleigh-seat (so that the snow tossed 
up by the horse's hoofs won't fall into the sleigh). And behind 
us, in front of his little seat, the good Strandberg standing on the 
runner, and the reins above us, and high over us now and then 
the flick of a whip. And white, white country roundabout, up 
and down and again high up and into the distance, shadowy and 
radiant white in variously inclined planes as far as the dark 
near-by wood and farther on again to the distant, gray-blue 
wooded hills, behind which an early, yellow-green sunset is going 
on at a place where the dense gray of approaching snow is torn. 
And here and there in the skies are other such opened places. 
And it is blue behind, gray thin blue, or else a light glassy green 
in which the pink of a cloud is slowly turning to white. That 
was my farewell to Furuborg, for today is my last evening in 
the golden room which has not become confused even by trunks 
and boxes and still has so much space and peace that I could work 
in the midst of all this packing. Tomorrow I shall be on the 
way to Copenhagen. I shall get out in Charlottenlund and live 
there. . . . 

I** a 

To Lou Andreas-Salome Villa Charlottenlund 

Charlottenlund near Copenhagen 
December 4, 1904 

Dear Lou, now at last I am on the way back after a long, good 
time at Furuborg; long: for it seems to me as if I had had summer, 
autumn, and winter there and each one wholly; for the last sum- 
mer days with which it began were so thoroughly summery, and 
then each autumn day was an autumn festival, and finally, it also 
became regular deep winter with sleigh rides into the soft coun- 
try, in which everything had become distance, along the cold 
lake, over toward strange blue-darkening mountains. And there 
came a whole journey, white in white, seven hours on the train 
into Smaland, and it changed into a sleigh ride through a sound- 
lessly snowing afternoon and ended in the early dusk on a lonely 
estate. Amid the ringing of ten little bells we went through a 
long, old avenue of linden trees the sleigh swung out and there 
was the castle yard, enclosed by the little side wings of the 
castle. But there, where four steps rose with weary effort out of 
the snow of the yard to the terrace and where this terrace, 
bounded by a vase-ornamented railing, thought it was preparing 
for the castle, there was nothing, nothing but a few snow-sunken 
bushes, and sky, gray, trembling sky, out of whose twilight fall- 
ing flakes were being loosed. One had to say to oneself, no, there 
is no castle there; one did remember too having heard that it was 
burned down years ago, but one felt nevertheless that something 
was there, one had somehow the sensation that the air behind 
that terrace had not yet become one with the rest, that it was 
still divided into passages and rooms and in the middle still formed 
a hall, an empty, high, deserted, darkening hall. But at that mo- 
ment, out of the side wing to the left, stepped the lord of the 
manor, big, broad, with a blond mustache, and rebuked the four 
long dachshunds for their sharp barking; the sleigh drove past 
him in the curve up to the tiny little right wing, and out of its 
little door stepped the good Ellen Key, a modest figure in black, 

but all joyous under her white hair. For it was Oby, her brother's 
estate, and in this right wing is the old-fashioned room where, 
sitting on a red sofa of her grandmother's, she is writing the sec- 
ond part of her Lifslinjer and answering her countless letters to a 
lot of young girls and young women and young men, who want 
to know from her where life begins. . . , 

To Countess Luise Schiverin Worpswede bei Bremen 

June 5, 1905 

It happens, dear and kind Countess, that your generous letter 
found me still here in Worpswede, where all sorts of circum- 
stances (my still hesitant health too) have held me fast week 
after week; spring week after spring week, and now for the last 
few days it has been summer, flung open, like a quickly unfolded 
fan that now waves gently with its many-colored surface, stirring 
air and fragrance. The old chestnuts are holding up their towers 
of blossom, black alder and lilac have thrown out their fragrances 
like nets, and here and there a little golden laburnum rain falls 
across the path. And the houses, which a while ago were every- 
thing, are now nothing, now that they stand withdrawn so far 
back in the clear, transparent shadow of trees and tree groups. 

So much has happened to overtake me here, while I lagged be- 
hind it all; I had to sacrifice to my weariness so much time which 
with idle hands it plucked to bits and scattered; but the few hours 
in which I was collected, I was so to good purpose about 
Meister Eckehart's purple darkness, collected by his words that 
are so penetrating. How I thank you, dear friend, for this book; 
how gladly I owe it to you, how fitting it is that this master 
should have been shown me by you and that it happened at just 
this moment in my development, when I needed his sanction 
and his blessing in much. You will someday see ... how much 
I, without knowing about him, have for years been his pupil and 
proclaimer. Somewhere (I feel it in all humility) I have grown 
out beyond him: at the places where he established, stood still, 

gave definitive form; but where he flowed, torrential, and fell 
down in great waterfalls to God, there I am only a small piece, 
torn along by him, the stream that with the broad delta of the 
Trinity moves out into eternity. . . . 

That such a human being ever spoke to humanity, to the needy 
and the helpless that is an inexpressibly beautiful thing. And yet 
no consolation, when one thinks that centuries have gone our 
from this man, not (as might be possible) out beyond him, but 
passing away under him, passing him by. 

Just last evening (while a thunderstorm was slowly coming 
up) I read Clara my two favorite sermons: the homily on St. 
Luke "The Kingdom of God Is at Hand" and the sermon "On 
the Going Forth and Returning Home of the Spirit/' which 1 
would like to call that of the never-said. It was solemn and wide 
about us. We thought of just a few people: of you, of two or 
three others; and this being alone was full of vision and distance. 

Clara Rilke, who is all day in her studio, charges me with affec- 
tionate messages for you, dear Countess. I am also to say that the 
material, which we chose together at the time, . . . pleases her 
very much (there is so much summeriness in its light-and-dark 
harmony, something soft and unspoken, as it should be in summer 
dresses, whose beauty lies in their being more unreal than flower 
petals and the whole background of summer which seems long to* 
outlast their fluttering fugitiveness). 

We are so glad you are enjoying things and resting, as your 
dear letter so well tells. I am glad, my kind friend, of every word 
and happy to hear from your sister too, so that I may now think 
of and write to both of you. The promised account of a festival 
on your island I would very much like to have, if it is not too* 
presumptuous to expect something beyond your letter which is. 
wholly what you, in an enhanced and fulfilled sense, called 

I expect to go from here after Whitsuntide; first to Gottingen 
to an experienced and dear friend, with whom I want to discuss 
the Berlin plan again. ... Of all decisions and arrangements I 
will keep you informed; for what I don't want to miss in any- 


thing important are your and your sister's sympathetic thoughts 
and the helpful kindness of your generous feeling. 

To Clara Rilke Gottingen auf dem Hainberg 

June 1 6, 1905 

. . . Your dear letter with the pinks brought me something 
dear and quiet from you. . . . With all the good I have here 
your words joined in like consent. Thanks. ... I will not tell 
you much about it all, how I am living now, how I am being 
given strength here and composure and encouragement. Often 
we wish you were with us when we sit in the garden and read or 
speak of all the things with which I have often bothered you and 
which are now becoming so much easier or at least more bearable 
in their difficulty; yesterday especially, you were so much missed 
when I showed Lou the throne of Venus from the Ludovisi col- 
lection; she gets such inexpressible joy, so much happiness from 
it; without being in any way prepared for looking at such things, 
she enjoyed from within herself by some path of her very own 
the glory of the antique piece, and exactly as she enjoyed my 
"Rodin" and a few days ago, the "Panther." 

How good ... it was that I came here. It is so much more 
beautiful than I could ever have divined, because it had an even 
greater necessity than I thought. And if everything here rejoices 
and helps me now, there is among the most real joys a confidence 
scarcely to be suppressed any longer: that to you too this dear 
person here, with her breadth of soul, can someday become dear; 
that the possibility of it is there, I feel every moment now, and 
all that is needed is that the aimless paths of life shall sometime 
lead to the necessity, to the place where it becomes a matter of 
course for this person, who plays such a big part in my inner 
history, to be (and not only for my sake) indispensable and essen- 
tial to you too. Without this hope I could not be entirely here nor 
become entirely happy; but this way I am so, and I believe it will 
be noticeable for a long time to come that I once was so. 

I love my little room with a few books that I know, with a few 
things from which memories emanate, with the little wooden 
platform and the steps into the long, narrow garden that goes glid- 
ing down the hillside into a dense field of fruit trees. And the 
landscape is friendly too: to the one side, the wide valley with 
the tiny, quite factory-free city of learning, to the other, be- 
yond a wooded hill's rim, valleys, and hills in broad, large, green 
waves, from forest to forest right up into the Harz. Avenues and 
quiet paths everywhere, up and down which I walk for hours 
alone (Lou cannot take much exercise), sunk in my own 
thoughts, like one of the Hainbund poets perhaps, and yet quite 
different, without allies, in far wider alliances. . . . 

To Clara Rilke ' Marburg a.d. Lahn 

July 27, 1905 

... I have been in Marburg now since eleven-thirty; have 
walked up and down the little crooked town as far up as the castle 
and as far down as St. Elizabeth's, built around and over the 
miracles of the sainted countess. Delightful German Gothic 
enacted in the way a hand is held, in the way a head is bent, 
in a fold drawing up slender and steep along a narrow figure. And 
in the one side wing, stone tombs of the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries, men lying in iron, the right leg slightly retracted, the 
iron gloves laid one upon the other. And the face deep within 
between hauberk and visor, shadowed and shone upon by 
both. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Friedelhausen, Lollar, Hesse 

August 23, 1905 

. . . Yesterday, on a glorious, full summer's day with many 
radiant and colorful hours, we drove out again as before, the 
lunch basket on the box: first to the Rabenau and from there, 

i 88 _ ^___ 

almost without a stop, on to Appenborn, the old family seat of 
the one main Rabenau line. A little rustic-seignorial manor with 
an outside staircase and old, oaken pillars; the farmyard round 
about, so that one overlooks it from the hall, and with an old, 
terraced garden sloping down toward the house, in which the 
tenant-farmer's wife raises all kinds of flowers. And the phlox 
stands tall beside the old shored-up apple trees and dahlias and 
asters and gladioli and the tobacco's blossom star that is closed 
Iby day. . . . On the drive back Hassan struck again, which re- 
sulted in our having an evening and a nightfall in "Grandfather's 
garden," in the old Londorf pavilion, where the chandelier was 
'burning, shimmering out with a radiant festiveness into the gar- 
den walks from which, as if from many sides, came the noise of 
the fountain. Those hours were very beautiful and full of memo- 
ries that came and went without being ours. In the wood by 
the Rabenau family vault, I saw a fox that sprang past me slender 
:and wild, his face with the quick eyes turned full upon me. . . . 

Clara Rilke Schloss Friedelhausen, Lollar, Hesse 

September 7, 1905 

... I shall live at Rodin's in Meudon. Just think. For day be- 
fore yesterday afternoon came the following letter (written by 
his secretary) : "Monsieur Rodin me charge de vous faire savoir 
qu'il sera heureux de vous voir; Monsieur Rodin vous attendra 
-a Paris a partir du 7 courant. Monsieur Rodin me charge en outre 
*de vous faire savoir que vous pourrez demeurer chez lui, a Meu- 
<lon, pendant la duree de votre sejour a Paris. Agreez Monsieur 
<etc . . ." (signed by the secretary and underneath: Aug. Rodin 
in his own hand.) Then, on the back, a postscript by the secre- 
tary with his signature once again, reading: "Monsieur Rodin 
tient a ce que vous restiez chez lui pour pouvoir parler." Isn't 
that kind, that further corroboration and confirmation Rodin had 
him add? In answer I wrote yesterday: j'accepte, for he does 
mean it that way, it is his will, and it will be good. For the moment, 

1 89* 

as I wrote, I accepted only for a few days, because I was afraid of 
causing Madame Rodin too much trouble; but it will become 
apparent in the simplest way how long I can stay with him out 
there without anyone's suif ering from it. Of the great nearness 
and intimacy of his daily life I think with deep joy, and as gladly 
of the little Villa des Brillants and its garden looking out far 
and wide. . . . 

To Countess Luise Schiverin Wacholderhohe, Godesberg; 

September 10, 1905 

. . . out of the last swift days in the dear gray castle many 
thoughts came to you from me; a letter would gladly have come;, 
but there was so much, outside and in; life had to go on in its* 
own way: that was the surest means of being close to you. We 
had to sit at breakfast as though you might at any moment walk 
in, and at noon gather in your high workroom and evenings be- 
quietly together in your dear name. And in between were vari- 
ous things; the first two proof signatures of my Book of Hours 
came and insisted on being read, and the afternoon brought our 
Kant hour, which on the last day too led to finishing the book 
that we had undertaken. Two most beautiful drives we made; 
each into a different world and country, with distant views over 
bright fields and the shining river and on beyond to the quietly 
full contours of dense wooded hills : to Salzboden first through* 
the village as far as a big mill and then across a bridge and cir- 
cling back through Odenhausen, and the second drive, to the Neb 
bridge, from which one sees Marburg, medieval and as if with 
the light of another star, on a gray afternoon, when everything- 
distant was wonderfully gently toned down within the grayness. 
And then I tried to achieve now and then an hour of quiet in* 
which I did nothing but walk up and down on the terrace be- 
low, with eyes that really contemplated and found repose in-, 
everything, with which I sought to take once more, and deep in 
the taking to hold, all the dearness, all the reality that I so gladly 


owe to your daily giving. How often, I feel, how often in all 
that is to come, picture after picture out of it all will return to 
me, the castle, that moment or some particular movement that 
took place in one of the rooms grown dear: and when such a 
return comes toward me out of deep-sunk recollection full of 
memories, it will be significant every time and related to much 
and evoking the future with a new noble name. My life, every- 
thing that I am, has gone through Friedelhausen the way a whole 
river goes through the warmth of a sunny countryside, wider 
spread and broader as it were and gleaming with all its waves. 

And yesterday, on the journey, I saw Weilburg for an instant, 
built up on its mildly commanding mountain, and when that 
was past, nothing came for a long time save forests and curved 
forest valleys like long-echoing afterrings of the tone it had 
awakened in me. Past robust Limburg too we went and past a 
steep strong castle of Runkel and past ruins that went on looking 
with but a single arched window out of the forests, as though 
they had gone down to destruction in their green, agitated dark- 

And are now amid the von der Heydts' cordial, quietly gener- 
ous hospitality. 

Tomorrow I go on, far from all this, but still not out of the 
nearness that includes and holds me with you and your dear ones. 
And I shall come to the great man, dear as a father, the Master, of 
whom I shall still tell you much. He wants me to live with him, 
and I could not do otherwise than accept; so I shall be allowed to 
share all his days, and my nights will be surrounded by the same 
things as his. And I shall not have the city about me with its 
voices and violence, but him and the stillness of his house in the 
country that from the heights of Meudon overlooks with quiet 
eyes distant Paris and the near valley of Sevres. Thence my aff ec 
donate thoughts will seek you and bless you. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Rodin, Meudon 

September 15, 1905 

... he received me, but it means nothing if I say cordially; in 
the way a beloved place receives one, to which one returns by 
paths that have become more overgrown: a spring that, while one 
was away, has sung and lived and mirrored, day and night, a 
grove above which birds of passage have flown back and forth, 
spreading shadows over its tracery, a path lined with roses that 
hasn't ceased leading to those remote places; and like a big dog he 
greeted me, recognizing me with exploring eyfes, contented and 
quiet; and like an eastern god enthroned, moved only within his 
sublime repose and pleasure and with the smile of a woman and 
with a child's grasping gesture. And led me about. Now things 
are well with him; much more world has grown about him; he has 
built several little houses from the museum downward on the 
garden slope. And everything, houses, passages, and studios and 
gardens: everything is full of the most wonderful antiquities that 
associate with his dear things as with relatives, the only ones they 
have, happy, when the thousand eyes in their bodies open, not 
to be looking out into an unfamiliar world. And he is happy and 
strokes their beautiful shoulders and cheeks and from afar 
reads on their lips the inexpressible. And with him everything 
is in blossom. How all that has grown! And how one under- 
stands and loves all the new as that which had to come, the 
most necessary, most inward, decreed, destiny! He moves like 
a star. He is beyond all measure. About my book, which was 
carefully translated for him only recently, he said the greatest 
things one can say: placed it beside his things, very big. ... I 
have a little cottage all to myself: three rooms: bedroom, work- 
room, dressing room, with enchanting things, full of dignity, and 
the main window with all the glories of the Sevres valley, the 
bridge, the distances with their villages and objects. . , . 

I 9 2 

To Clara Rilke Chez Rodin, Meudon-Val-FIeury 

Wednesday, September 20 [1905] 

. . . what are all times of rest, all days in wood and sea, all at- 
tempts to live healthily, and the thoughts of all this: what are 
they against this wood, against this sea, against the indescribably 
confident repose in his holding and carrying glance, against the 
contemplation of his health and assurance. There is a rush of 
forces streaming into one, there comes over one a joy in living, 
an ability to live, of which I had no idea. His example is so with- 
out equal, his greatness rises up before one like a very near tower, 
and at the same time his kindness, when it comes, is like a white 
bird that circles, shimmering about one, until it lights trustfully 
upon one's shoulder. He is everything, everything far and wide. 
We speak of many, many things. It is good for him to talk about 
many things, and though I can't always keep up with him very 
well, being hindered by the language, still I am doing better and 
better every day with the listening. And just imagine the last 
three mornings: we got up very early at five-thirty,' yesterday 
even at five o'clock, and went out to Versailles; at the Versailles 
station we take a carriage and drive into the park, and in the park 
we walk for hours. And then he shows one everything: a dis- 
tance, a motion, a flower, and everything he evokes is so beau- 
tiful, so understood, so startled and young, that the world is all 
one with the youth of this day that begins in mists, almost in soft 
rain, and quite gradually becomes sunny, warm, and weightless. 
Then he tells a great deal about Brussels where he had his best 
years. The model for the "Age d'airain" was a soldier and he used 
to come quite irregularly, sometimes at five o'clock in the morn- 
ing, sometimes at six o'clock in the evening; [Rodin's] col- 
league on the other works forced him out from jealousy, and so 
he was left with almost all his time to himself. And he spent it in 
the environs of Brussels, always on the move with Madame Rodin 
(who is a good, loyal person), in the woods, always wandering. 
At first he would set up his paintbox somewhere and paint. But 


he soon noticed that in doing this he missed everything, every- 
thing alive, the distances, the changes, the rising trees and the 
sinking mist, all that thousandfold happening and coming-to- 
pass; he noticed that, painting, he confronted all this like a hunter, 
while as observer he was a piece of it, acknowledged by it, 
wholly absorbed, dissolved, was landscape. And this being land- 
scape, for years, this rising with the sun and this having a part 
in all that is great, gave him everything he needed: that knowl- 
edge, that capacity for joy, that dewy, untouched youthfulness 
of his strength, that unison with the important and that quiet 
understanding with life. His insight comes from that, his sensi- 
tivity to every beauty, his conviction that in big and small there 
can be the same immeasurable greatness that lives in Nature in mil- 
lions of metamorphoses. "And if today I were to paint from 
Nature again, I would do it just as I do my sculptures, a very 
quickly sketched contour that I would improve at home, but 
otherwise I would only gaze and unite with and be the same as 
everything about us." And while we speak thus of many things, 
Madame Rodin picks flowers and brings them to us: autumn 
crocuses or leaves, or she draws our attention to pheasants, par- 
tridges, magpies (one day we had to go home earlier because she 
had found a sick partridge that she took with her to care for), 
or she collects mushrooms for the coachman, who is sometimes 
consulted too when it appears that none of us knows a tree. Thar 
was in the elm avenues that go around by the edge of the Versailles 
park outside the Trianon. A twig was broken off: Rodin looked 
at it for a long time, felt its plastic, strong-veined leaves and finally 
said: so, I know that forever now: c'est Tonne. Thus in everything 
he is receptive as a goblet, and everything becomes wellspring T 
wherever he proffers himself and shines and mirrors. Yester- 
day I lunched in the city with him and Carriere and an author, 
Charles Morice; but usually I see no one but him. In the evening, 
at twilight, when he comes back from the rue de TUniversite, 
we sit at the rim of the pool near his three young swans and look 
at them and talk of many and serious things. Also of you. It is 
beautiful the way Rodin lives his life, wonderfully beautiful. We 


were to meet Carriere at the studio in the rue de 1'Universite; 
we were there promptly at twelve o'clock. Carriere kept us wait- 
ing. Rodin looked at the clock a few times while he was attending 
to some of the mall he had found there, but when I looked up 
again, I found him deep in his work. That is how he spends his 
waiting times! . . . 

Soon after supper I retire, am in my little house by eight- 
thirty at the latest. Then the wide blossoming starry night is be- 
fore me, and below, before the window, the gravel walk goes up 
a little hill on which, in fanatic silence, an effigy of Buddha rests, 
dispensing with quiet reserve the inexpressible self-containedness 
of his gesture beneath all the skies of day and night. Cest le centre 
du monde, I said to Rodin. And then he looks at one so kindly, so 
wholly a friend. That is very beautiful and a great deal. . . . 

1 901 

To Karl von der Heydt Villa des Brillants 

Meudon-Val-Fleury (Seine et Oise) 
November 20, 1905 

. . . only the very great are artists in that strict yet only true 
sense, that art has become a way of life for them : all the others, 
all of us who are still only just busying ourselves with art, meet 
on the same wide roads and greet each other in the same silent 
hope and long for the same distant mastery. . . . 

I 91 3 

To Clara Rilke Villa des Brillants 

Meudon-Val-Fleury (Seine et Oise) 
November 24, 1905 

. . . yesterday in the great storm, read Verhaeren whom I 
visited Wednesday with Ellen's greetings and found sweet and 
simple, reminding me somehow of Otto Modersohn, . . . 
nevertheless I await die Master with impatience; he is work and 

nourishment, and when he is here, the day has many more hours 
and sleep more industry. 

To Clara Eilke Villa des Brillants 

Meudon-Val-Fleury (Seine et Oise) 
December 2, 1905 

. . . yesterday it was like this: the Master and I went early to 
Versailles (for the first time again, though it was raining) and 
walked about slowly two gray, gentle hours in the garden of the 
Grand Trianon which belonged entirely to us and was so new 
and odd, with a row of palaces and pavilions which even the 
Master had never seen like this, and courts overgrown with grass 
and forgotten, and water mirrors of big darkened panes against 
which a hand of chestnut leaves held itself now and then, while 
the misty rain approached it all from afar. Then we returned 
quickly for lunch (Madame Rodin had not been with us) and 
went right afterward into the city and up to Notre Dame, entering 
on the dot of two o'clock with the petitioners of the first Advent 
Sunday. There Madame Rodin set in place two chairs for us by 
a pillar near the big left-hand grillwork gate that leads into the 
middle between main nave and high altar, . . . there we sat still, 
quite still for two hours on end, and there was a singing over 
us and for us and for God, singing and booming and roaring in 
the dark treetops of the organ, out of which now and then, scared 
up by voices, the soprano flew up like a white bird and mounted 
and mounted. 

And Rodin was as though he had once done all that five hun- 
dred years ago; became so lost and was yet so much there and so 
initiated into everything and so recognized by the shadows that 
stepped up to him out of the pillars and reverently accompanied 

Later we walked slowly, the three of us, in the falling mist 
and light, first past the antique dealers, then against the stream 


of all the Sunday strollers (as we often did too) up the Boul d 
Saint-Michel, bought cakes at the little pointed corner of the rue 
Racine and its sister street on the right side of the Boulevard, 
the very cakes that Rodin showed us from outside through the 
bright windows, walked the rue Racine, through under the 
Odeon, into the already quite dense-gray Luxembourg, stopped 
a while before the Fontaine Medicis and finally came through 
the Avenue de TObservatoire on to the B d Montparnasse, which 
.also for Rodin and Madame Rodin is full of memories of their 
very early days. . . . That was Sunday and already quite a 
^birthday, altogether. . . . 

I 93 3 

To Arthur Holitscher Villa des Brillants, Meudon-Val-Fleury 

December 13, 1905 

... a constellation of dear people stands above me and above 
;all this that makes me light and heavy, and again and again heavy; 
-they are the people from whom I do not often hear, about whom 
I rarely ask (I am so sure of them), and when I look up, they are 
always in the same place, always above me: you are of these 
people, dear friend. All the silence is like space between us, but 
mot like time: it does not separate us, it only determines the ex- 
tent of what we have in common and makes it very wide. Isn't 
that so? Where did you last leave me? Now you find me again 
in a little cottage that belongs to Rodin and stands in his garden 
on the slopes of Meudon, facing the skies, before which, far, far 
off, Saint-Cloud rises, with the window always on that part of 
the Seine which through the Pont de Sevres has become a stanza. 
And there my life is. A little as Rodin's secretary, writing very 
reprehensible French letters, but above all among his grown-up 
things and in his great serene friendship learning, slowly learning 
this: to live, to have patience, to work, and never to miss an in- 
ducement to joy. For this wise and great man knows how to find 
joy, friend; a joy as nameless as that one remembers from child- 
hood, and yet full to the brim with the deepest inducement; the 

_ '97 

smallest things come to him and open up to him; a chestnut that 
we find, a stone, a shell in the gravel, everything speaks as though 
it had been in the wilderness and had meditated and fasted. And 
we have almost nothing to do but listen; for work itself comes- 
out of this listening; one must lift it out with both arms, for it 
is heavy. My strength often fails, but Rodin lifts everything and 
lifts it out beyond himself and sets it down in space. And that is- 
a nameless example. I believe in age, dear friend. To work and 
to grow old, this it is that life expects of us. And then someday 
to be old and still not by any means to understand everything, 
no, but to begin, but to love, but to sense, but to link up with 
what is distant and inexpressible, even into the stars. I say to< 
myself: how good, how precious life must be, when I hear this- 
old man so grand in his speaking of it, so torrential in his silence. 

Often indeed we do not know this, we who are in the difficult, 
up over our knees, up to our chests, up to our chins. But are we 
then happy in the easy, aren't we almost embarrassed in the easy? 
Our hearts lie deep, but if we are not pressed down into them, 
we never go all the way to the bottom. And yet it is necessary to 
have been to the bottom. That is the point. 

Bon courage, Rodin says to me sometimes, for no apparent 
reason, when we part in the evening, even when we have been 
talking of very good things; he knows how necessary that is, every 
day, when one is young. 

To Clara Rilke Villa des Brillants 

Meudon-Val-Fleury (Seine et Oise) 
[postmarked January 26, 1906] Friday morning 

. . . We came home tired, the weather was too much against 
us, after brisk cold rawness and then snow and right after that 
thaw and east wind and glare ice; all in one day and on this par- 
ticular one, and the most impracticable weather for our road from 
the station. So we arrived tired. Perhaps also because it is sad- 
dening to see all that ruin and that bad restoration which is even 


more intolerable, in its stiffness and hardness and ugliness, than 
the loss of a beautiful thing. Chartres seems to me much more 
ravaged even than Notre-Dame de Paris. Much more hopeless; 
much more abandoned to those who destroy. Just the first im- 
pression, the way it rises up, as in a great cloak, and the first de- 
tail, a slim weatherbeaten angel holding out a sundial exposed to 
the day's whole round of hours, and above it one sees, infinitely 
beautiful still in its fading, the deep smile of his joyfully serving 
face, like sky mirroring itself. . . . But that is nearly all. And 
the Master is the only one (it seems) to whom all that still comes 
and speaks. (If it spoke to others even a little, how could they, 
one wonders, how would they be allowed to miss it?) He was 
quiet as in Notre Dame, fitting in, infinitely recognized and 
received. Speaking softly of his art and confirmed in it by the 
great principles that reveal themselves to him wherever he looks. 
And it was very beautiful; from the station we got to the cathedral 
about nine-thirty; there was no longer any sun, there was gray 
frost, but it was still quiet. But when we arrived at the cathedral, 
around the angel's corner a wind came suddenly, like some very 
large person, and went pitilessly right through us, sharp and cut- 
ting. "Oh," I said, "here's a storm suddenly coming up." "Mais 
vous ne savez pas," said the Master, "il y a toujours un vent, ce 
vent-la autour des grandes cathedrales. Elles sont toujours en- 
tourees d'un vent mauvais agit6, tourmente de leur grandeur. 
C'est Pair qui tombe le long des contreforts, et qui tombe de 
cette hauteur et erre autour de 1'eglise. . . ." Something like that 
the Master said it, briefer, somewhat less elaborate, more Gothic 
too. But something of the sort was the sense of what he meant. 
And in this vent errant we stood like damned souls compared 
with the angel holding out his dial so blissfully to a sun that he 
always saw. . . . 


To Clara Rilke Villa des Brillants 

Meudon-Val-Fleury (Seine et Oise) (France) 
February 8, 1906, Thursday, toward evening 

... I am writing, I should say, a hundred letters every day, 
morning for the Master and afternoon for myself, and if any- 
thing is then left over that isn't yet night, I hearken to my poems 
that still want to go into the Book of Pictures. Slowly I listen to 
each one and let it die away into its farthest echo. Few will stand 
up in the stillness in which I place them, several will recast them- 
selves, of many only a piece will be left and will wait until, one 
day perhaps, something joins it. ... 

To Clara Rilke Villa des Brillants 

Meudon-Val-Fleury (Seine et Oise) 
Thursday evening, February 15, 1906 

. . . yesterday we lunched once more at Troubetzkoi's (three 
vegetarian lunches in succession), and afterward (he lives in 
Boulogne-sur-Seine) we walked to the Jardin d'Acclimatation 
through a more quiet part of the Bois de Boulogne, out of whose 
depths now and then a light deer face had been looking at us for 
a while; we landed first in a kind of exhibition, the way you and 
I once did too, beside which is an enclosure with monkeys; the 
fearful hamadryads were furious as before, bit into their hands, 
and beat themselves against the wall, as if out of their minds over 
the unspeakable ugliness in which cruel Nature had left them, as 
it passed on to the next. (All this she had to make, continually 
trying new combinations, in order to get to us, said the Master.) 
In the same enclosure, in a cage opposite, were three monkeys the 
size of little dogs, with pale sick faces and the great dreamy eyes 
of consumptives. Infinitely forlorn and hopeless, they had joined 
fast together in a sad merging-into-each-other, each expecting 
comfort from the warmth of the other, the three faces, each sepa- 


rate, each different, set into the whole, as sometimes in Minne's 
woodcuts, or less firmly drawn and given over to the total effect, 
as sometimes in Carriere. But then we stepped out again under 
the afternoon skies that were wintry, and into the wind that came 
off snow, and it was almost painful in that air to see the rose and 
red flamingos blooming. Rodin lingered for the most part near 
the precious Chinese pheasants that seemed to be of enamel and 
finished with so much care that it was surprising to find on one 
or another a gray head, as if only in underpainting and never 
carried out. (How often Nature has probably gone on thus to the 
next thing, driven by what comes to her mind and by the joy of 
beginning that next thing! ) The last we saw was a marabou, holy, 
but ugly, full of wilderness in his feeling and utterly hopeless in his 
meditation: (first sketch perhaps for a hermit, abandoned and 
not taken up again until much later). . . . There is so much now 
for the Master to do; we are already at a "discours" again; he 
sent one as a letter for the opening of the first exhibition, at the 
time of my return; now he has to speak himself at his banquet 
on the twenty-first, and he has a lot of nice and fruitful ideas, 
of which he wants to hand over all that is best. I must only see to 
it that each idea is glad to stay beside the other; I may add noth- 
ing, but just that is not easy. And letters upon letters. . . . 

[ 971 

To Clara Rilke Villa des Brillants 

Meudon-Val-Fleury (Seine et Oise) 

February 22, 1906 

. . . With this letter I ought to bring bread into the house for 
you, into the new one; but again my fields are not yet that far 
along. There is scarcely a shimmer even of what is to come next, 
and the sun is still hidden behind the gray of my activities and 
can almost never shine on it, on the little green. Alas ... 1 
could copy out your long letters with all their questions about 
what life wants of us, I could copy them out and they would be 
my letters, word for word. 


There are mornings, all the birds call so specially, and a singu- 
lar agitation is in the air, and I can scarcely contain myself with 
yearning to be long alone, for anything that is so absolutely mine 
as those Roman days, of which I often cannot help thinking be- 
cause in the garden now it sounds so like that sometimes. And 
mornings, and afternoons with the Bible on the reading desk, and 
boundless evenings, and nights that seem to rise up out of one's 
own heart, and all mine. And tomorrow another day. I have 
thought what to do, but the time here is already as good as up t 
Sunday I leave and -- . But life wills it thus, your life and 
mine . . . our life, to which we have always had to give way: 
its way. . . . 

I am thinking of so much now, and the practical jostles with 
the limitless in me as in dreams sometimes. Everything that in- 
sists on being thought of and attended to, and all the rest that 
wants to be beside some sea and wants to sing, days on end, nights 
on end. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Thursday, April 5, morning 

[postmarked April 5, 1906] 

. . . Here it is spring. There is only the one word for it. And 
already it is no longer premature to say so. The violets are past 
their bloom, the blue periwinkle looks large-eyed out of its dark 
green (the pervenche Francis Jammes loves so), the primroses are 
standing side by side in big groups, as though they had run to- 
gether from everywhere, and the wallflower (girofle) is as if 
darkened by its own heavy perfume. All that is full of memory,. 
but it is a memory without heaviness, that rises up and away from 
the things into the sky. And against the skies stand the bearing 
gestures of the plum trees, as if ashamed of the easiness of their 
blossoms that will open fully tomorrow by the hundreds. And 
yet as in wisdom already bearing this ease, as later the burden. 
And the little valley is beautiful and as though it lay further away 
from the house than usual, being so set into the spring. And the 


antiquities standing out there are as if they too were to put forth, 
so full, so full of rising life. 

Day before yesterday we were in the woods, toward Jouy-en- 
Josas and Velisy, and there everything was full of little white 
anemones, the whole floor of the forest full of anemone-stars 
and constellations. . . . 

I 991 

To Karl von der Heydt Meudon-Val-Fleury, Seine et Oise 

April 7, 1906 

In me is all the restlessness of these unbelievably blissful spring 
days which, like a hall that goes up several stories, reach through 
the whole sky; the birds are singing, already the periwinkle in the 
shadowy green is opening its gazing blue eye, and the scent of 
wallflowers fills the whole morning. And the plum trees are in 
bloom. And I lack nothing but that little bit of freedom to be by 
myself and to listen down inside myself and to consider some 
work of my own. Will you understand that every day I have 
to exercise all my common sense not to climb aboard a train and 
go to Viareggio, there on the coast of the Ligurian Sea, where 
the third part of the Book of Hours came into being, all embedded 
in the great noise of the lonely sea? So strong is the feeling in me 
that I could do, should do something now, something that may 
perhaps never come again like this, but that cannot come here, 
stifled by the correspondence I must do and diverted from me 
through the continual qui vive of my function, through this never 
being able to be inwardly alone. . . . My God, I have to say that 
to someone, just in order to have said it, and I say it to you be- 
cause you, on your journey that will quickly pile up again new 
.and diff erent things over this letter, can best forget it again. . . . 


[ '00 ] 

To Karl von der Heydt Villa <ks Brillants 

Meudon-Val-Fleury (Seine et Oise) France 
Wednesday after Easter 1906 

I thank you for the question. Only my father could have 
asked like that. And I feel that I can answer you, as I would have 
answered him, honestly, without hesitation. I am seriously re- 
flecting and thoroughly took counsel in myself last night: What 
can you do for me? Dear friend: 

What I would need, according to my feeling and my con- 
science, is: to be able to work for myself alone for a year or two, 
under conditions such as I had for a while that time in Rome; 
alone, with only my wife in the neighborhood, who was working 
too, so that we did not see each other every day by any means, 
yet were helping each other. Without a function, almost with- 
out outside contacts. (Then the Notebooks of Malte Laurids 
Brigge, to which I have not yet returned, came into being, and 
other things wanted to come. But my stay had to be cut short.) I 
went then to my friends in Sweden who offered me everything 
the most generous hospitality can give, but still could not give 
me this, this limitless solitude, this taking each day like a life- 
time, this being-with-everything, in short, space, to the end of 
which one cannot see and in the midst of which one stands, 
circled about by the innumerable. 

So the time in Sweden became more a receptive time, as Friedel- 
hausen was later, in all its legendary beauty, and as, in still an- 
other way, Meudon is now. But after all that and after certain 
anxious and profound occurrences that have peculiarly linked and 
interpreted everything that went before, a time should, must come 
for me, to be alone with my experience, to belong to it, to re- 
shape it: for all that is unconverted is already oppressing and 
confusing me; it was only an expression of this state that I should 
have been longing more than ever to take upon myself, like a 
vocation, this spring that reached out to and touched everything: 
since it would have become the highest inducement for so much 


that is only awaiting a start. I don't believe I am fooling myself 
when I think that my age (I shall be thirty-one this year) and 
all other circumstances speak for the fact that, if I might now 
collect myself for my next advance, I could produce a few works 
that would be good, that would help me along inwardly and per- 
haps also pave the way outwardly for giving to my life a se- 
curity which my so-far published books have not given, but which 
seems not quite excluded for later. 

But: I cannot possibly leave Rodin now; that is just as clear 
to me. My conscience would not be light enough for work of 
my own if I went away from him like that, unexpectedly. Espe- 
cially as he has been sick all these weeks and still feels tired and 
low and has need of my support, insignificant as it is, more than 
ever. I shall now have to hit upon some kind of compromise with 
my great longing. I am convinced that patience is always good 
and that nothing that in the deepest sense is justified in happen- 
ing can remain unhappened. I shall some day take up and bring 
to an end the work for which conditions are now lacking, if it 
is really as absolutely necessary and organically demanded of 
me as I believe. I shall carry on this life with good will and ab- 
solute readiness to serve a while longer, as well as I can, and give 
it up some day when we have considered whether that is possible 
and in what way it is to happen. To think that out, slowly to think 
it out ahead of time for next fall perhaps, that is the only thing, 
dear friend, that you can do for me now. . . . But it will alter 
my life and my position very much if I can just hope to be able 
to return to my own work and task in the not too distant future. 
Then I shall at once have joy in the patience now required of 
me, imposed on me by circumstances, in a certain sense difficult 
but yet not hostile, by this great old Master who wants it thus. I 
am incessantly called and interrupted and will let matters rest for 
today with having spoken these few words to you: which to me 
has been an indescribable relief. . . . 


To S. Fischer Meudon-Val-Fleury (Seine et Oise) France 

April 19, 1906 

... A few days ago Rodin began the portrait of one of your 
most remarkable authors, which promises to become something 
quite extraordinary. 

And yet hardly ever has a portrait been so much aided in its 
making by the subject it represents as this bust of Bernard Shaw. 
Not only that he stands excellently (with an energy in his keep- 
ing still and with such an absolute giving of himself to the hands 
of the sculptor), but he knows too how to collect and concen- 
trate himself to such a degree in the part of his body which, 
within the bust, will after all have to represent so to speak the 
whole Shaw, that the nature of the man springs over from it 
with unbelievably heightened intensity, feature by feature, into 
the bust. 

This personality of Shaw's and his whole manner makes me 
desirous of reading a few more of his books, of which I think I 
know only the Man of Destiny. Would sending me a few of his 
books be justified if I say that I am hoping to write a little thing 
about him (though without blindly obligating myself to it)? 

I would be deeply grateful to you, you may be sure, if you 
would send me some of his things. I could also relay something 
of them to Rodin; he wants to become acquainted with Shaw's 
books, but since there are as yet no French translations in exist- 
ence, the only source for him would, for the present, be what I 
could tell him of them. 

Madame Shaw, who brought about the making of this portrait 
over her husband's head in the most charming way, is a solicitous, 
quietly attentive good woman, full of zeal and enthusiasm for 
beautiful things, hovering about her husband with all this as the 
spring wind plays about a billy goat. This by way of information 
about your remarkable author. . . . 



To Clara Rilke Meudon-Val-Fleury (Seine et Oise) France 

Thursday after Easter 1906 [postmarked April 19, 1906] 

. . . The summer is moving fast. Here at least it seems to be 
approaching with great rapidity. Can you imagine that the Ave- 
nue de FObservatoire is thick and green, as it was that time when, 
returning from Viareggio, I walked up and down there. And in 
the Luxembourg it is all shadow on the upper terraces, the shim- 
mer of the girls* dresses is now more subdued, with more nuances, 
under the full chestnuts : no longer in their very shiny spring- 
bright whiteness. And here in the garden already yesterday a blue 
iris opened; the strawberries are blooming, the currant bushes 
too I saw out there in blossom. The little new light-green heraldic 
eagles are set up by the round fig bushes. And now, since yes- 
terday (after many, many summer- warm, radiant days) there is 
falling, day and night, a soft, quiet rain, thick, gentle, and full, 
as from the rose of a watering can: comme tombant d'un arrosoir, 
one would like to say, because that sounds and falls still darker 
and fuller on the ear. And the green is growing under this rain: 
swelling and pushing up, and here and there opening all fresh and 
new. . . . (And I think of Rome.) 

Bernard Shaw comes out daily with his wife, we see each other 
often, and I was present at the first sittings and saw for the first 
time how Rodin tackles his work. First there is a firmly shaped 
clay dummy, consisting of nothing but a ball set on something 
that supports it like a shoulder. This dummy is prepared for him 
and contains no armature at all; it only holds together by firm 
kneading. He begins his work by first placing his model at a very 
short distance, about half a step from the stand. With a big iron 
compass he took the measurement from the top of the head to 
the tip of the beard, and immediately established this proportion 
on the clay dummy by lumps of clay. Then in the course of the 
work he took measurements twice more: nose to back of head, 
and ear to ear from behind. After he had further cut out the eye 
sockets very'quickly, so that something like a nose was formed, 

and had marked the place for the mouth with an indentation such 
as children make on a snowman, he began, with his model standing 
very close, to make first four profiles, then eight, then sixteen, 
having his model turn after about three minutes. He began with 
the front and back views and the two full side-profiles, as though 
he were setting four different drawings vertically against the clay 
ball, then fitted half -profiles, etc., between these contours. Yes- 
terday, at the third seance, he seated Shaw in a cunning little 
child's armchair (that ironic and by no means uncongenial scoffer 
was greatly entertained by all this) and cut off the head of the 
bust with a wire (Shaw, whom the bust was already remarkably 
like, in a superior sort of way, watched this decapitation with 
indescribable joy) and worked on the recumbent head, partially 
supported by two wedges, seeing it from above, at about the same 
angle as the model sitting low down a step away. Then the head 
was set on again and the work is now going along in the same 
fashion. In the beginning Shaw stood, often very close to the 
stand, so that he was somewhat higher than the bust. Now he sits 
right next it, exactly as high as the work, parallel with it. At some 
distance away a dark cloth has been hung up, so that the profiles 
always stand out clearly. The Master works rapidly, compressing 
hours into minutes, it seems to me, executing stroke after stroke 
at very short intervals, during which he absorbs indescribably, 
fills himself with form. One seems to feel how his quick, bird-of- 
prey-like clutch is always carrying out only one of these faces 
that are streaming into him, and one comprehends his working 
from memory after the sitting is over. . . . 

Be of good cheer and earnest confidence. Should this blessed 
life, which indeed never does anything twice but still might come 
back to letting us work side by side, give us a chance once more 
like the one in Rome, we shall be much further ahead and more 
capable and will do a lot of good things. . . . 


C 103 1 

To Elisabeth von der Heydt Meudon-Val-Fleury, 

Seine et Oise, France 
April 26, 1906 

. . . Do you know, does v.d. Heydt know Shaw's works? 
There is a man who has a very good way of getting along with 
life, of putting himself into harmony with it (which is already 
something). Proud of his works, like Wilde or Whistler, but 
without their pretentiousness, proud as a dog is proud of his 
master. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Meudon-Val-Fleury, Seine et Oise 

May 3, 1906 

. . . there is no nightingale in the garden here, not even 
many bird voices; on account of the hunters probably who come 
by here every Sunday; but sometimes in the night I waken with 
the calling, a calling somewhere below in the valley, calling out 
of a full heart. That sweet ascending voice that does not cease 
to mount, that is like an entire being transformed into voice, 
all of which its form and bearing, its hands and face has become 
voice, nocturnal, great, adjuring voice. From afar it sometimes 
bore the stillness to my window, and my ear took it over and 
drew it slowly into the room and, across my bed, into me. And 
yesterday I found them all, the nightingales, and in a mild, cur- 
tained night wind walked past them, no, right through the midst 
of them, as through a throng of singing angels that only just 
parted to let me through, and was closed in front of me and shut 
to again behind me. Thus, from quite near, I heard them. (I had 
been in town, to eat with passing friends of the Elberf eld von der 
Heydts, and came back to Val-Fleury by train toward ten.) 
Then I found them: in all these old, neglected parks (in the one 
with the beautiful house whose walls are slowly falling in, as 
though some artillery of time were aimed directly at them, the 


one that is cut through the middle by the road and like a fruit 
that has fallen apart shows its interior, withered and moldy; and 
a little further over in a thickly wooded stretch of park) and be- 
hind and above in the closed gardens of the Orangerie. And from 
the other side it came across over the walls of the old Mairie and 
then suddenly beside me out of a dense little garden full of hedges 
and lilac bushes : came so recognizably and so interwoven with 
the little garden lying withdrawn into itself under the half-light 
night, as when in a piece of lace one recognizes the picture of a 
bird spun of the same threads that signify flowers and blooming 
things and densest superfluity. And that was noise and was about 
me and drowned out all thoughts in me and all my blood; was 
like a Buddha of voices, so big and commanding and superior, so 
without contradiction, vibrating so, up to the very boundary of 
the voice, where it becomes silence again, vibrating with the 
same intensive fullness and evenness with which the stillness vi- 
brates when it grows large and when we hear it. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Meudon-Val-Fleury, Seine et Oise 

Thursday evening [postmarked May u, 1906] 

. , . this will only be a little Sunday letter, because I have a big 
task: this, to pack up and move out of my little house into the 
old freedom with all its cares, with all its possibilities, with the 
great possession of all its hours. I am full of anticipation and 
happy. About how it came, there is not much to tell, and what 
there is to say I do not want to write. It probably had to come and 
it came so of itself. I bore everything, even this last period, with 
quiet, introspective absorbed patience, and I would probably have 
borne it that way for a month or two longer. But the Master must 
have felt that I was suffering . And now the end has come so 
quickly, doubtless more quickly even than he expected, because 
he wants to go to the country for a while and close up the house 
and garden completely. So I plan to move into the city on Satur- 
day; I have rented a room in the little hotel in the rue Cassette 


( No. 29 ) in which we once visited Paula Becker, the room on 
the entresol under hers, that still, over the opposite wall, looks out 
on and tells of the presence of the green convent trees. I have 
rented it without obligation from week to week. There I shall now 
be and shall meditate upon myself and remain alone a little with 
what is in me. And go on, at once, getting the Cornet ready 
and arranging the Book of Pictures. And see the Louvre and the 
Cluny now and then and walk in the avenues, by now so dark, of 
the Luxembourg gardens toward the gray sun outside. . . . 

Don't be anxious about what is to come. There are ways, and 
we shall surely find them and make good plans in the course of 
the next weeks. 

C *o61 

To Auguste Rodin Paris 

[in French] May 12, 1906 

My Master, 

I cannot begin the unforeseen life you have prescribed for me, 
without having placed in your hands a short exposition of the 
facts as I most sincerely feel them to be. 

M. Thyssen's letter was addressed to me, as your secretary; 
nor did I withhold it from you in speaking to you that very eve- 
ning and first thing next morning and in then proposing to you 
to send the letter prepared several days before to M. Thyssen 
and to add a postscript relative to his German letter. If I was at 
fault in this matter, it is that I judged the letter of little importance, 
being built on a false supposition and therewith no longer valid. 
You thought otherwise, though I remain convinced that my point 
of view was excusable in regard to a letter that was not meant to 
take rather indelicate advantage of the implied mistake and of 
your absence. 

M. Rothenstein's letter was the reply to a purely personal 
letter I had addressed to him; it was (I must remind you) as your 
friend that you introduced me to M. Rothenstein, and I could 
see nothing improper in accepting the little personal relation 


that had been established between your friend and me across our 
conversations, the more so as we had very dear mutual friends. 
But you no longer wished to remember that it was as a friend 
that you invited me to come to you and that the function into 
which you introduced me after a few weeks was at first only a 
means of procuring for a poor friend some quiet time favorable 
to his work. It was thus that you formulated your proposition, the 
morning we were walking in the avenue deliberating this pos- 
sibility which made me happy in the extreme. 

"You will help me a little; that will not take much of your 
time. Two hours every morning." Those were your words. 

Moreover, I did not hesitate to give you, instead of two hours, 
almost all my time and all my strength (unfortunately, I haven't 
much) for seven months. My work has been neglected for a long 
time; but how happy I was nevertheless to be able to serve you, 
to be able slightly to lessen the preoccupations that disturbed 
your admirable labors. 

You yourself opened your intimacy to me and I entered timidly 
there, in the degree that you wished it; never making any other 
use of that unforgettable preference than to take comfort in it 
deep in my heart and that other use, legitimate and indispensable 
to accomplishing your affairs the way you wanted under your 
eyes. If I felt that I ought to penetrate those intentions in order 
someday truly to help you, by knowing your decisions in ad- 
vance, that feeling need not be blamed; it was bound to waken 
in one who ardently wished to relieve you and to render you 
fully the service you had confided to him. 

Nevertheless, I have all appearances against me at the moment 
when you see fit to shift my sincere efforts to a basis of suspicious 

Here I am, dismissed like a thieving servant, unexpectedly, 
from the little house where, before, your friendship had gently 
installed me. It was not to your secretary that you gave those 
familiar quarters. . . . 

I am profoundly hurt by this. 

But I understand you. I understand that the wise organism of 


your life must immediately repel that which seems to it harmful, 
in order to keep its functions intact: as the eye repels the object 
that disturbs its sight. 

I understand that, and do you remember? how well I under- 
stood you often in the happiness of our contemplations? I am con- 
vinced that there is no man of my age (either in France or else- 
where) who is endowed as I am (by temperament and by work) 
to understand you, to understand your great life, and to admire it 
so conscientiously. 

(My wife, from a slightly greater distance and in another way, 
has a similar feeling for you. I am distressed that you did not 
think of her in dismissing me, not by a single word, although she 
(who has such need of your help) has not offended you; why must 
she share this disgrace of fortune into which I have fallen? ) 

You have now, great Master, become invisible to me, as though 
by some ascension carried up into skies of your own. 

I shall not see you any more but, as once for the apostles who 
were left behind saddened and alone, life is beginning fpr me, 
the life that will celebrate your high example and that will find in 
you its consolation, its justification, and its strength. 

We were agreed that in life there is an immanent justice that 
fulfills itself slowly but without fail. It is in that justice that I 
put all my hope; it will one day correct the wrong you have 
seen fit to inflict on him who no longer has the means nor the 
right to show you his heart. 


C '07 3 

To Ellen Key 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

May 19, 1906 

... So now: you are coming and I am very happy about it. 
It is true to forestall disappointment you must give up Rodin, 
at least seeing him 'with me. Since six days ago, I am no longer 
with him. At his wish I left him rather unexpectedly, serving 
him up to the last moment with all my powers; I would not have 
been able to go on doing it for long anyway, for in the end there 


was no time left for myself, none at all. Only it would have been 
difficult for me to take my departure, on the one hand without 
leaving him in the lurch with all the writing, on the other because 
of my own uncertain situation. But now that he has taken the 
step I have no reproaches to make myself, and must assume that 
all is for the best. My longing for my own things too was already 
great enough ; they shall now have their turn again; externals 
and the conditions of life will simply have to take on some sort 
of form. Things must go on somehow, as they have gone up to 

Of the further particulars of my parting with Rodin, I cannot 
speak; I can only tell you, because you must know it, that I 
cannot go with you to him, and would also have to ask you, in 
case you see him which I hope and desire very much not to 
speak of me. 

Perhaps you will go to him with Verhaeren ; what a pity: all 
these months I have rejoiced in this one thing, above all in this: 
taking you about among his things and into my little house; now 
everything has come about otherwise. 

But please do not conclude from this that I do not feel for 
Rodin all that I ever felt of admiration and love; my inner rela- 
tion to him is unaltered, only I can give it no outward expression 
for the moment, and I must leave it to time to bring about an ad- 
justment that will again reinstate me in the rights of my feeling. 
Will these circumstances keep you from coming to Paris? I 
hope this will not be the case. Paris is so beautiful now and I 
would derive so much consolation and encouragement from see- 
ing you now and talking with you. (Tell me when you are coming 
and where you are going to live) .... 

n >n 

To Baroness Gudrun Uexkull 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

Ascension Day [May 24] 1906 

. . . Several days ago now I left Rodin to come home to my 
own work, to myself, to all that has long been repressed. Ah, 

how very alien any service is if it is not one's very own, the spon- 
taneous service that goes straight from the heart and hands toward 
what is greatest, if it is not service to God, without an inter- 
mediary. Now everything must slowly come to me again, the 
whole widely scattered herd of my tasks and labors, which has 
been without supervision. The Cornet is once more, finally, to 
be recast and tested tone by tone down to every echo, and the 
new edition of the Book of Pictures, which will be published with 
many additions, awaits its assembling. . . . 

[ '09 3 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

Friday morning [May 25, 1906] 

... I am still far from Make Laurids; the Cornet and the 
B. of P. must first be all ready for the press. And there it is, in 
the Cornet, the passage in question that holds me up. I am almost 
afraid, in spite of everything, it will have to stand as it is. The 
same superficial, unperceptive presentation is actually in the 
whole work (only not in the rewritten passages any longer), and 
that obtrudes intolerably only in the passages about the "brown 
maiden," while elsewhere it is hidden. Don't you think so? It 
is so very much a work of youth and requires much forgiveness, 
The entire arrangement of the B. of P. also is still before me and 
will not be easy. , . . 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

Tuesday morning [May 29, 1906] 

... I understand your letter as if I had written it myself, and 
if I did not talk about all that in mine, which you got Sunday, it 
is because I believe we must still have patience: you, as long as 
your work is going ahead and coming to a close, and I, until my 
Cornet at least and my B. of P. can go to press and until the mo- 
ment when I feel I am somewhat organized and clear in mind and 

inwardly resolute. My leaving Rodin is still too close to me, 
there is much here I would still like to see, this seeing and this 
being alone must still do much in me. . . . Despite the feelings 
that, in me too, have become impatient, urgent, and relentless, 
already more than once, I think that your work, your beautiful 
and important work, must, since for the moment I am involved in 
none, be the gauge for us: when you have come to some stopping- 
place in it, let us make up our minds and act without delay. 
Either you come here then, have a few days with me (my last) 
in Paris and we go from here somewhere by the sea, or I come to 
W[orps]wede into your dear house, into your summery room, 
and we go from there to some small, inexpensive beach. (Ah, if 
we could only save, and only had the knack of living on next 
to nothing, of holding back everything and letting go only the 
most necessary, unwillingly and with bad grace. Ellen Key is 
almost offended if she is asked for money anywhere, and in- 
credibly distrustful of the person who takes it. As a bowler his 
ball, so, with her whole feeling, she keeps following her franc 
piece for a long time, expecting each one to make all nine. She 
is stingy, I notice, our good Ellen. She has probably had to be; 
it was her mimicry for getting by in various years. But it is not 
pretty to watch. Since she has been here I live in quite unfamiliar 
poverty whenever I am with her. We wait on the most diverse 
corners for the most diverse buses, we eat in a Duval in between, 
secretly as it were, and I suspect she gets her nourishment princi- 
pally from what is set before her during some visit. This indigence 
is sad, but has as consequence a freedom we could well use. One 
can do a great deal, one can always manage this way .) 

But she is good and honest, our dear Ellen, and convinced and 
so touchingly untouched by all experience. With her, although 
she is practical, one cannot discuss practical things because she 
assumes, if it is a question of plans, that one mentions only those 
for which the means are already at hand, counted out exactly. 
Then she naturally says yes and amen to the fine plans. One lives 
within the money one has, she thinks, and makes one's plans 
within this enclosure (which would yield pretty poor little vege- 


table gardens) . And also one can scarcely talk with her of inward 
things, because she still has certain holiday ideals and such un- 
alloyed sentiment that with warmth promptly turns into emo- 
tion. So little can be done with that. But do not conclude from 
all this that I am not pleased to be with her: I am really fond 
of her in many ways and for much have a quite natural, spon- 
taneous admiration. Out of an unsuccessful life she has made 
something happy; she has made contact with very important 
things, and has fallen in love with life and put her trust in life 
with a pure readiness and a careless serenity like the bird which 
"has not this care." She will be here for a fortnight (during 
which I naturally do not always want to devote myself to her 
with complete regularity) , and already the first day, the Sunday, 
was of course thoroughly organized. First in turn was the Louvre, 
in which she looks at and interprets everything in an entirely 
emotional way, so undisturbed in her points of view: this was 
really strange before the Mona Lisa, who on that day was of a 
forbidding haughtiness, deep and clear in the shadow and with 
all the blue light behind her on water courses and falls and the 
blue flames of the animated mountains. Before many things this 
reaction was banal, sometimes it was of a Goethian comprehen- 
siveness, sometimes very inadequate, and a thing like the St. Anne 
withdraws utterly from such a familiar approach and treatment. 
The Venus of Milo, which we saw only from a distance (I 
finally had to go to lunch), would have been the most ad- 
mirable subject for such interpretations, and down there before 
her curtain, she seemed to be just waiting for emotional photo- 
graphs of that sort. (To me, this way of looking is of course 
fatal: I feel like the young dog with his nose pressed into the 
little bit of past one should not do in the room.) Then in the 
afternoon, on the way back from Jouven, Ellen was in my room 
for a moment (we sent a card to you) . She told about Worpswede 
and is still very amazed at Ruth and indescribably proud of her. 
At four we arrived by the most various buses at Verhaeren's 
who, because of his annually recurring hay fever, must now avoid 
the country and stay on in a little attic lodging in Batignolles. 

We had a very lovely hour with him and his wife to which at the 
end, unfortunately, came Madame G . . . R . . . , the poet's 
widow, of whom one very well understood her surviving him. 
But most remarkable was the evening of this already very long 
day. We saw Ibsen's Wild Duck at the Antoine. Excellently 
rehearsed with a great deal of thought and shaping-up: amazing. 
Naturally distorted, twisted, misconstrued in detail through cer- 
tain differences of temperament. But the play itself. Thanks to 
the circumstance that both female characters (Hjalmar Ekdal's 
wife and the fourteen-year-old Gina) were simple, without 
French make-up, all their brilliance came from within almost to 
the surface. There was something very great, deep, essential. 
Doomsday and judgment. Something ultimate. And suddenly, 
the hour had come when Ibsen's majesty deigned to look upon 
me, for the first time. A new poet to whom we shall go by path 
after path, now that I know one. And again a man misunderstood 
in the midst of fame. An entirely different person from what one 
hears. And still another experience: the unspeakable laughter of 
the French audience (a very inferior one, to be sure) at the most 
delicate, most tender, most painful places, where even the moving 
of a finger would have hurt. There: laughter. And again I under- 
stood Make Laurids Brigge and his northernness and his being 
wrecked by Paris. How he saw and felt and suffered it. Yes- 
terday, Monday, the most important thing was the Faillet private 
collection with all the most important Van Goghs and Gauguins 
reproduced and praised in Meier-Graef e. There is something most 
important there beneath arbitrariness and next to insanity. 1 
don't yet know what. It was very remarkable. And I could take 
that very seriously, while a Gustave Moreau exhibition only gave 
me the feeling of not belonging there. So I am, after all, somewhat 
further along than four years ago. . . . 


C "' 3 

To Clara Rilke Friday, June i [1906], morning 

. . . now we have had a few days of bright sun again and today 
there is rain, and across the way, over the wall, a light wind is 
turning the leaves of the chestnut trees and acacias so that they 
get and feel the rain from all sides and are shining with it. And it 
is one of those rainy days that are not for the city. That one 
should experience outside, to see all the darkened green, all the 
meadows mirroring gray, all the beech leaves that are in motion 
and more variegated in their green since the lights are no longer 
there (the bright, melting, dissolving lights), leaves that have 
only reflections, green that sees itself again in green, green that, 
set against green, has green shadows, green that has become deep 
and finally has a bottom somewhere, a bottom of green. And sud- 
denly all the color is taken out of the scent too, as if the sun 
in leaving had let it sink into the flowers. Now the leaves are 
fragrant, the little beech leaves especially, and the old-fashioned 
leaves of the elms and the little tipped-over leaves of the balsam 
poplars are flowing slowly out into the air. Yesterday we saw 
this rain in preparation out in the country, in beech-tree paths, 
over broad meadows and water surfaces, in the windows of an 
old castle: in Chantilly. This was not a really royal castle, and it 
isn't like one. It belonged to the Condes and it is different, more 
intimate than Saint-Cloud or Versailles or Saint-Germain, ducal 
only, but full of decorum and quiet, not dominating and arrogant 
in its feeling, but proud in its reserve and conscious worldly dig- 
nity. From the castle (of which only a small wing is old and 
good) no views out into an empire that goes up to the sky. But 
within the roomy circle of trees which is or seems to be the 
boundary, a spreading out, an unfolding with roads and ave- 
nues, with water mirrors and rose parquetry, with steps that, 
flowing out of balustrades, seem to follow the ascending palace 
like its train, with scarcely dipping meadow slopes and scarcely 
rising roads, with nuances of movement, with a play of advance 
and retreat, of hasty approach and withdrawal, of faltering rise 

and swift fall, with this whole minuet of space that is sometimes 
reflected in one of the high windows and is blotted out by the 
sky which, out of the depths of this mirror, shimmering like 
mother-of-pearl, comes plunging, light gray and exaggerated, 
spilling over everything. Inside, a magnificence spoiled in later 
times. A series of pictures; little portraits of women and men, 
black- white-yellow on a jade green background; little Clouets, 
exquisite and awkwardly elegant, set on an escutcheon-blue back- 
ground, Fouquet miniatures (legends of Christ and the saints) 
taken from the livre d'heures of Etienne Chevalier; a drawing of 
Rembrandt, drawings of Watteau and Prud'hon; Botticelli, Pol- 
laiuolo, and Raphael with pictures; ornaments: among them a 
Benvenuto Cellini; a very beautiful, dew-bright, liquidly trem- 
bling amethyst, surrounded with brilliants, belonging to the 
greatest member of the house of Conde and suddenly, looming 
large in a passageway, that remarkable drawing of Leonardo's for 
the Mona Lisa, which looks too dark on the card; its tone is that 
of calf's leather and is rather light against the background spot- 
tily covered with brown. . . . 

C ' 3 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

June 14, 1906 

... it is strange that for us beginnings perpetually all but 
coincide with changes. That interruptions almost always im- 
pend when the sap is rising; as with grapevines pruned too late, it 
pours out then and what should have been a mouth has become a 
wound. La vigne pleure they said of it in Meudon in an old 
gardener's expression. I too have now a slight fear of moving. 
Being occupied with the B. of P. (it was sent off today at last) 
has brought me back, if not literally into work, at least (after 
an incalculable interim) into warmth, into the body temperature 
of my soul (to be so rudely graphic) , and that is already something 
and something which, after long coldness, I know how to ap- 
preciate. To go on living like this without any change: much in 


me would like that now in spite of the fact that my room is ntnt 
without its defects, etc. Now perhaps that is both possible and, 
in the interests of both of us, the most advisable. We are indeed 
in the same situation ... so let us perhaps, each in his place, 
keep on doing his own work, as long as it continues and circum- 
stances permit, without thinking of anything beyond. Then both 
our invitations will wait and can become eif ective when necessary. 
I haven't written there yet, but I think we could go as early as 
the second half of July to the Baron and Baroness von der Heydt 
who are already at Konigs-Hohe, while the Karl von der Heydts, 
as far as I remember, are expecting us in August. . . ,-Stina 
Frisell has, in the meantime, gone away again with her little 
Karin who is now to be introduced "into life," eighteen years old 
and in the midst of it as she is. Stina Frisell is a dear, simple, loyal 
person . . . and she was wonderfully comforting beside Ellen 
Key, of whom scarcely anything seems to be left, she is so gnawed 
and eaten away by all those rat-souls that cling to her. Ah, it is 
really sad. How she is nothing but a little shred of old-fashioned 
ideals worked into a Secessionist armchair and quite delighted 
with her own use. How she sees and hears nothing any more, 
neither the human drama incessantly being unloaded upon her, 
nor works of art, which she analyzes like a schoolteacher without 
taking or needing anything from them, nor her own memories 
which, dissolved in her discolored activity, have lost all local 
color. How, with a certain propensity to take her own life seri- 
ously (that was perhaps all), she has yet made it almost ridiculous: 
into the life of a good aunt to all the world, who has her pockets 
full for those who find pleasure in sugar lumps and cheap candies, 
but who cannot appease the hunger of a single person with her 
miserable, already slightly stale fare. And how natural and right 
that it happened thus. One cannot desire to make something out 
of the ordinary (and what is more exceptional and unusual than 
to be able to help someone ? ) into an everyday matter and into 
a profession. And only someone who looked at human life so 
little directly, so goodheartedly and, at bottom, so old-maidishly 
as Ellen, could fall (with such complete conscientiousness and 


conviction) into this error. That is just Ellen Key. Remark- 
able, isn't it; almost a little weird? Oh, all these noiseless trans- 
formations of life. The being no longer this and no longer that, 
while one still believes one is getting to that stage. This pouring 
out, gently, like an upset bottle that is lying on its side and feel- 
ing quite well and yet is already as worthless as a broken one. 
How these gentle things simply go away if we offend them with 
any kind of demand; how they lack any attachment whatever, 
how completely unsentimental they are, simply go away, fly 
off , are seen no more. 

Ellen's metier is contrary to nature. But I know its charm and 
intoxication, which our good Ellen has perhaps felt only rarely, 
because she was too modest and because, alas, because she could 
not even give what arouses, as a reflex, this intoxication in the 
giver: that absolute, ultimate something which at times attracts 
this or that young person to us, to you or to me, that something 
learned and suffered in the making of things, which is our pres- 
tige and our wealth. Some such young person will speak out to 
us and not know why it helps him so much. Oh that we might 
find the means, without stingily shutting ourselves up, of saving 
and keeping back. I think we must listen a great deal and atten- 
tively, then gradually we will answer more and more prudently 
and better and better. . . . Just think: two days ago in a studio 
(rue Campagne-Premiere) (scarcely three steps wide and three 
long) I read my Rodin essay to six young people. It just came 
about: I knew only one of them slightly (Dora Herxheimer, of 
whom I told you, who makes the big lions) , but it was lovely and 
serious and warm. 

How has it been in Oberneuland? I got a dear warm letter 
from our little girl, with rose leaves that felt like herself. It was 
quite well "written," in spots condensing into lines. I am so 
stupid that I don't know at all how to answer her nicely, but I 
shall write her today or tomorrow, as best I can. With rose leaves. 
And it strikes me that she should be the first to learn a piece of 
news which . . . will interest her. To you I shall only say that 
it is connected with the fact that soon now (in Ellen Key's book) 


a series of pictures of me will be published and that I myself am 
quite pleased with a certain alteration which I undertook for that 
and also for other reasons. However, enough of that, otherwise 
you will guess it and I would rather Ruth told you. . . . 

C "3 3 

To Clara Rilke Friday morning, June 21, 1906 

. . . Ellen Key left on Sunday for Switzerland; I accompanied 
her as far as Fontainebleau and we spent some not very profitable 
hours there, driven by flunkies at full speed through the castle 
in the midst of a Sunday pack (since E.K., with her inexhaustible 
receptivity, must always see everything), and passing a few 
afternoon hours in the big forest which, with its enormous 
beeches, ferns, and solitary birches in quiet glades, almost made 
one think of Danish forests. We were in the end wholly without 
contact and our mutual expressions of friendship had become 
mere social forms and were worked with a couple of handles like 
a machine. In the little station of Fontainebleau- Avon from which 
our trains went out in different directions at almost the same 
time, this situation rose of its own accord into a symbol and thus, 
having become real, lost its oppressiveness: just as in a poem, a 
situation taken up into a metaphor loses its transitory, painful 
and unstable quality, and becomes full of significance and inner 
validity, the moment it passes wholly into an image; so life pro- 
vided us (or me: since E.K., accustomed and practiced in replac- 
ing all actuality with the "ideal" of the actual long since ready 
within her, must have noticed scarcely anything of all this ) 
with the kindly satisfaction of relieving us of what was unspoken 
in our situation through a complete expression of it. Just think, 
it couldn't be better done: two people on two opposite platforms, 
separated by a pair of tracks on which, in a while, two trains 
going in opposite directions will come in to take one away to 
this place and the other to that. My platform just a platform, 
with people, impatience, departure: nothing to stay for. Ellen's, 
almost exaggeratedly peaceful: wholly in the sun, with rosebeds, 

nice benches, and a certain imaginary happiness: like a little gar- 
den city. And then between us this legally prescribed impossibility 
of crossing : so that really nothing had been left out or forgotten. 
And now that life had taken everything upon itself so literally, 
trait for trait, in the presence of this superior transfiguration, so 
finely developed with every means at hand, it was not difficult 
for me to look over in a friendly and open way now and then (the 
trains were a little too long in coming) and to return warmly the 
loyal and feeling gaze that encircled me from over there. With real 
warmth in my look. Now I understood how this old maid was 
only one of the many old maids who lay up memories in a room, 
memories and memories of memories and all only memories of 
one thing: of that love the once vague, mounting possibility of 
which had already been so exuberantly taken up by their hearts 
that the experience no longer needed to come at all. And all the 
accumulated things that always signify this one state and derive 
from it, from unlikely parents, from an error, from chance per- 
haps, have something uncertain in their look and something shy 
in their behavior, are themselves inclined to consider that they 
are not quite legitimate, while the old maid does nothing but weep 
over the indescribable respectability of her ancestry. Are certain 
people marked to fall into certain destinies, not to get beyond the 
type? And then if, as with Ellen, unusual power is added, resolu- 
tion, perhaps also a certain desperate determination to grow 
out of the fate to which she dimly felt herself committed, then in 
spite of everything, doesn't just the same destiny result, as if it 
were lived in a larger room, with disproportionately extensive 
memories which make that nullity of experience even more evi- 
dent? Perhaps the conventions of such wasted lives must be exag- 
gerated like that in individual destinies in order to be noticed. Per- 
haps that is their way out: this once more becoming as tragic in 
the great and obvious as they often were in the minute. But how 
good life is. How just, how incorruptible, how not to be cheated: 
not by force, not by will, not even by courage. How everything 
remains what it is and has only this choice: to fulfill itself or to 
exaggerate itself. . . . 

I "4 3 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

Friday morning [June 29, 1906] 

... I am thinking only remotely of the visiting journeys; 
though I occasionally Believe it possible that they could offer us 
the frame and setting for very dear reunion (of the two and the 
three of us). ... For the rest, I am absolutely decided to shut 
myself up for a certain number of hours every day, and no mat- 
ter where and under what exterior conditions . . . for the sake 
of my work: whether it really comes now or whether I only 
make the appropriate gestures, unfilled. For haven't I known 
with such great conviction ever since Russia, that prayer and its 
season and its gesture passed on reverently and unabbreviated was 
the condition God made and that of his return to this person and 
that, who scarcely expected it and only knelt down and stood 
up and was suddenly full to the brim . . . ? So will I kneel 
down arid rise up, every day, alone in my room, and I will con- 
sider sacred what happened to me in it: even the not having 
come, even the disappointment, even the forsakenness. There 
is no poverty which would not be fullness if one took it seri- 
ously and worthily and did not make it into an exasperation and 
abandon it. 

For the present do not count, for this (and many other) rea- 
sons, on my coming soon. My room is good to me and keeps itself 
about me and the heat seems to me so unusually bearable that I 
haven't yet complained of it at all. To be sure, there are already 
really hot days (like yesterday), but toward evening, the wind 
comes up of itself, without rain and storm, or at least it comes 
at night and the next day is a beginning again and has distance 
before it. As long as it is so bearable I will hold out and only run 
the risk of change when it becomes necessary. Nonetheless, it 
helps me to calm and cheerfulness to feel and to have before me 
the possibility of coming to you, the way you have indicated. 
It is to be hoped the change in diet, which may be in prospect, 
will not cause you any inconvenience. I believe that these things 

will in time prove less and less difficult for us, that in the end we 
shall have a joyful way of taking them as they come. I am eating 
at Claire's now at noon (completely vegetarian all these weeks) t 
and in the evening drink two cups of milk in a cremerie : that 
is all, with fruit evening and morning, and it is excellent and 
nourishes me as easily and naturally as sap does a tree, ... I 
would like to send you with this, because I cannot write more, a 
little poem; a little sketch from life. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Friday morning [July 6, 1906) 

... I must see about something to read and hear on the Rem- 
brandt celebration; is it connected with an important exhibition? 
If we could only go on from where we left off looking in Kassel 
and Frankfurt last year; and I think it would surely be like that; 
how beautiful it was before the Samson; we ought to have written 
down a few words then and there. Didn't you do it? Later? That 
was such a good day, when one apprehended and understood. 
And the joy in such great things happens so entirely in nuances 
that one cannot later say it was of this color or that. And one 
recalls almost nothing of it if one hasn't a few notes out of the 
immediate experience that might help. It is the same for me with 
the last year's portrait in Berlin. Looking at such things a meta- 
phor ought to come to one, something like a little entrance of one's 
own through which one can always get in. It seems to me as if all 
that could be better if one put oneself into that state of mind 
of which I wrote recently, and it strikes me also that one must 
be able to reach and evoke it, because it is perhaps nothing but 
attentiveness. I tried that in the Louvre recently. I had been there 
a few times and it was like looking at great activity; thus things 
kept happening and happening there before me. And then, a 
short time ago, there were only pictures and many too many 
pictures, and everywhere someone standing, and everything was 
disturbing. And then I asked myself why it was different today. 
Was I tired? Yes. But wherein did this tiredness consist? In the 


fact that I let everything possible come into my mind; in that 
everything possible went right through me like water through 
a reflection, dissolving all my outlines into flux. And I said to 
myself: I will no longer be the reflection but that which is above. 
And I turned myself over so that I was no longer upside down, 
and closed my eyes for a brief moment and drew myself about 
me and stretched my contours, as one stretches violin strings, 
until one feels them taut and singing, and suddenly I knew I 
was fully outlined like a Diirer drawing, and I went thus before 
Madonna Lisa: and she was incomparable. So, do you see . . . , 
it is this that one must sometime be able to do. Not to wait 
(as has happened until now) for the strong things and the good 
days to make something like that out of one; to anticipate 
them, to be it already of oneself: that is what one must some- 
time be able to do. And won't everything be work then? For 
what in that state is unfruitful? It is precious black earth in us, 
and our blood has only to go ahead like the plow and make 
furrows. Then, while we are at the harvesting, the sowing will 
already have started again in another spot. . . . 

c <n 

To Karl von der Heydt Hotel de la noble Rose, Furnes, Belgium 

last day of July, 1906 

My dear friend, I no longer propose to be burdened by still, 
day after day, not having thanked you for your little letter and 
the fulfillment of what it had to announce. You know : thanks 
with all my heart. 

This last period has been confused, the leave-taking from Paris 
difficult and inwardly complicated. I am sitting in a strange little, 
old city in the midst of a Teniers kermis, my eyes full of swings 
and round games, my ears full of hawkers, my nose filled with 
the smell of beer, honey cake, and peasantry, on my tongue the 
dust and dryness of this activity, and the pressure of indescrib- 
able summer warmth on all my feeling. (It is in keeping with 


Flemish taste to count with all five senses and to enumerate them 

In Furnes the tram line begins by which the whole Belgian 
coast is tied together from knot to knot; at intervals I am looking 
for the town it is to be. But most of them, alas, are already 
real "bains de mer" with distractions, courses, etc. (Heavens, 
where is it going to, the solitude of earth?) 

C "73 

To Countess Mary Gneisenau Friedelhauscn bei Lollar 

September 11, 1906 

How are we to thank you for the delightful correspondence 
you keep up with such unforgettable and charming tokens? This 
summer seems to us in retrospect almost like a fairy tale, the way 
it stands about your figure and behind it, enhancing it to yet 
deeper significance; or rather, to put it differently, opening life 
up to us, riches and expanse, pictures behind pictures, contacts 
and understandings; how much has come to us unawares through 
you, things real and given, and how new things are continually 
being given into our hands out of your letters and journals. How 
are we to thank you? 

That Sister Marianna's letters returned to me from your hands 
adds to the letters themselves that by which the book had been 
enriched when I got it back: the equilibrium that lies in a rose 
like that being so inexpressibly beautiful, a rose that has slowed 
the joyful and princely rhythm of its prime till it became 
transiency, evanescence, a series of slowly descending tones. 
But, as we somehow need the rose in its coming and its opening, 
how very necessary this is for us too, how closely this too is 
bound up with our hearts, and how we cling to it: to this faded- 
ness and to the tender, slightly plaintive nuances of fadedness: 
those yellows in the yellow, ah yes, they are in us too, and we 
come to find them beautiful and to rejoice in them; we come to 
let count everything in life's hands, in a waiting, a willing, still a 


little bit elementary impartiality. For fading and fadedness and 
giving oneself over to them is one beauty more beside the beauty 
of what comes and burgeons and bears, just as lamentation is a 
beauty, and fearfulness, and self-surrender, and futile and self- 
abasing entreaty, when it comes so violently, rushing on so irre- 
sistibly over a heart's declivity, as it did with the Portuguese nun: 
"A wee bit small and indiscreet" it was indeed, that supplica- 
tion and belittling and abasing of self in love disdained; and yet 
it was so rich, so creative, so very much this heart's progress and 
glory to have become didn't you feel it too? great and valid 
beyond its object, exhaustless and beautiful. Only in comparison 
with that dull and insignificant object was it wrong and unfitting 
to show such devotion. Gauged by the measure of the devotion 
itself, its object no longer exists; it has become space, and the im- 
mense ardent lamentation goes right through it and toward no 
one any more. And at this point it becomes manifest that it has 
entered again into a majesty beyond its apparent humbleness. 

That is why loneliness, which so often increases their sorrows 
beyond number, is so suited to the lot of women: because only 
within this seclusion is such a transfiguration possible; this being 
way down deep not implicated in the suffered wrong, this in- 
ability ever to become vulgar, this intactness, is this too heavily 
paid for by all that women have borne? A voice is lifted, ah, a 
small, a weak voice in utter distress and wants only to cry out; a 
betrayed little heart wants to rest, two eyes seek their pasture 
and no impatient straining arises from it and no distortion: the 
eyes look out more and more clear-sightedly, the heart grows, and 
already there is no longer anyone there: no one so big that he 
might follow the prodigious calling that goes forth from that 
lamenting mouth. Who can pity women that has ever seen how 
they grow beyond wrong and pettiness, how they are something 
untouched, an untapped store. Perhaps the man doesn't pass by 
"uncomprehending and unsuspecting," perhaps it is they, ex- 
alted as they are, whose fate it is, even there where they kneel 
before him, to grow immeasurably out beyond him. , . . 

n n 

To Karl von der Heydt Schloss Friedelhausen 

September n f 1906 

. . . Clara is thinking seriously of Berlin and wants to try 
transferring her Worpswede studio thither and to begin an in- 
dustrious winter there. And I I am thinking in all seriousness 
and hardihood of Greece. You have indeed suggested all kinds 
of things to me which really appeared not much less daring, but 
for which no justified urge spoke in me; but now here is a coun- 
try that in climate would offer everything those southern places 
promised, of which we thought. And besides, there are voices in 
me counseling this so unconditionally and honestly that I would 
still feel this choice to be less forced and arbitrary and finical, 
despite the rather more complicated trip and greater distance, and 
that this decision appears to me simpler, more direct, more sober 
than any other. What I learned with Rodin of bearing and capacity 
and joy: where could I better test and apply it and become one 
with it than in the presence of those unforgettable things back to 
which, up many branches, the blood of his own things goes? 
Should it not be of special value to write there the second volume 
of the little Rodin book, which is indeed to be the very next thing 
I begin? I feel that much in me could broaden there and that other 
things that were perhaps growing one-sidedly could there ex- 
perience the correction and restraint that can emanate from the 
age-old experiences of that land. . . . 

c *:i 

To Gudrun Baroness Uexkull Friedelhausen 

September 12, 1906 

... I only want to tell you today how beautiful it is here: 
how animated and spacious these days are, autumn days, as one 
must admit; but the vistas between the full trees are deep and 
radiant, the clouds are built up into great shapes on the horizon 

and if one looks up, one sees a poplar glittering against blue air. 
The day is already divided for one's feeling, like a bicolored flag, 
into cool and warm. Sun is one thing and shadow is another, and 
they seem to have nothing more to do with each other. Only be- 
low in the nursery garden it is still different. There it is still 
summer from morning to evening. There sap is still rising in the 
stalks and stems, and there things still confidently go on growing. 
There each warms the other, and an old-fashioned blanket of 
fragrance is lying over the asters and gilliflowers and "marvels 
of Peru" which stand close beside each other, holding color 
against color, full of simplicity and joy. All this greets you 
through us and so much in us joins in the greeting. . . . 

To Countess Mary Gneisenau Friedelhausen bei Lollar 

September 20, 1906 

No, there is nothing I would not like to write you about; only 
it seems to me so immodest and unsuitable to talk about the "per- 
son" after whom you, kindly, ask. That person is something very 
helpless and his growth and progress is slow and hesitant and 
full of relapses ; it cannot be a question of his becoming some- 
thing worth talking about, rather everything depends only on 
how much and how completely he will be able to transpose him- 
self into artistic matter. That is why, particularly in less good 
periods, I have almost no means of letting him express himself; 
that is why I was silent about myself, although I wish nothing 
more urgently than to feed the relationship between us with the 
best: yes, for that very reason. Moreover my recent letter was 
conceived as the first part of a communication the second part of 
which was to contain more personal matters. Then it didn't 
come to that: so far in advance did what came send its dismay 
and depression; I could only have talked of vague fear, of much 
sadness, of how much this gray autumn breaking in swiftly upon 
us frightens me with its manner and makes all the cold and 

hardness coming up with winter seem colossal to me, as to a little 
bird. Should I have written about all that? 

Then little Ruth fell ill here in the unfamiliar house and all that 
kept working on us in the same direction. She had a few distressing 
days, while the illness was asserting itself; since it has become mani- 
fest, not only does most of the discomfort seem to be past, but 
the little girl is applying her energy and nature so bravely now 
to becoming well again that we really have no more reason to 
worry. But however quickly she may get through with it all, 
we must still count on remaining in Friedelhausen at least until 
the end of this month. This new delay is strange when one con- 
siders how very much we wanted soon to get at carrying out 
those decisions which even now haven't been made. 

Just think (ah, how I long at heart to tell you about everything) 
that to the possibilities we thought we faced, a new, very tempt- 
ing one was added: the renewed invitation of our present kind 
hostess to pass the winter with her in complete freedom for work 
in her villa on Capri. You can imagine that that appealed to us. 
We spoke much about it, but now it does seem to us that Clara 
would do best to choose the most courageous among all the pos- 
sible decisions, the one that looks least like an evasion of what 
will, after all, one day have the upper hand in some form; your 
dear letter and everything you have already begun to do for 
her coming to Berlin helped her very much to this good inclina- 
tion in which (as far as I can see) she is now becoming strength- 
ened from day to day. . . . 

May I too find some most courageous one among my coming 
decisions. Occasionally I think of going to Greece now, of writ- 
ing or at least preparing there the second volume of my Rodin 
book and of accepting the Capri invitation for the rest of the 
winter. But it may still come out quite differently. At present 
everything seems unreal to me: one plan as well as another, and 
also much that is past, like the time on Wacholderhohe which in 
us too has sunk into such a dreamlike haze. And which already 
seems distant. A distant summer. . . . 


To Ellen Key 16 Hubertusallee, Grunewald bei Berlin 

November 6, 1906 

. . . Off and on, by roundabout ways, I have had good news 
of you, and so I didn't feel entirely separated from you, although 
I did nothing at all to give you a visible sign of all the good greet- 
ings and thoughts that are accustomed to go to you. I heard 
just now that you are well and am very happy about it. 

There would be many things to say now about myself, but 
perhaps so I hope I shall be able to deliver to you personally 
a supplement to all that has happened. 

I am for the nonce skipping everything up to the moment (a 
month ago now) when we arrived here. Clara (you will already 
have heard about it) wants to try to get pupils and commissions 
here and to undertake a trial winter in this (alas, so loathsome!) 
city. I helped her a little in the preparation for it, had myself a 
few steps and paths to take here besides, finally had to go in for 
a troublesome dental treatment which led to a great deal of dis- 
tress and has so weakened me that my whole constitution is in a 
state of severe exhaustion which I am only now hoping to get 
out of again. The summer was not very good for me anyway, not 
as regards health, and not otherwise. According to my inner 
need, I would now like best to go to Paris again, where I woilced 
well and industriously until the first of August. But the means 
are lacking, so I am snatching at a kind and friendly invitation 
that calls me to Capri, where I hope to concentrate on serious 
work. It is the sister of Countess Schwerin who died last year 
(Frau Alice Faehndrich von Nordeck-Rabenau) , who means 
to arrange a little room for me in her villa on Capri. With a heavy 
heart I am renouncing Paris, which was so favorable to my work, 
but it is of course a great joy that there is the other possibility 
permitting me to hope for a good winter. So as soon as I feel 
a little stronger I shall travel (and indeed without stopping) to 
Naples in order to get very quickly to work (the last months 
have taken me very far away from it) . 

Now let me tell you at once, dear Ellen, that my friend and 
hostess would be very happy to receive you in her house on 
Capri. Note that down, also that I expect you there, and arrange 
your plans so that if in the course of the winter you go farther 
south, you stop off with us! 

So, now I have acquainted you somewhat with everything, 
and now comes a request. I have already voiced it once before 
in similar form and am repeating it now at the present moment 
in all frankness. Dear Ellen, wouldn't you do me the favor not 
to let your essay on my books be published for the present as a 
book? I asked you that once before. Then you said you had 
promised Bard something and had nothing else suitable for him. 
Now this reason does not hold, since the little book has been 
taken away from the publishing house, and I am making use of 
the opportunity once more to tell you quite honestly that it 
would be a relief to me if the little book were not published, not 
now. It is so profoundly necessary for me now not to be shown 
and recommended, it is quiet and obscurity that I need above all 
in order to take my next steps. The essay, which is based largely 
on passages from letters for which no evidence as yet exists in 
my books, outstrips me in a certain sense, while on the other hand 
it also fixes my religious developments at a stage beyond which 
they have, t in part, already been shifted. I have no publication 
now which in that sense would speak for itself, it is by no means 
a moment to call attention to me and I am more and more 
anxious to have my books speak for themselves ; dear and valua- 
ble as your helpful voice is to me; it has certainly had its effect 
too, and indeed no slight one, but there is no reason at present 
for again attempting any influence. In addition the place with 
Fischer is a very conspicuous and exposed one in which the 
book would necessarily and rightly provoke considerable opposi- 
tion that is unnecessary. In short: all in all: I beg you (relying 
on your not misunderstanding me) not to bring about a book 
edition of the essay immediately, perhaps to postpone it until 
some one of my future works is at hand which might then justify 
the publication of such a brochure, for which there is now no 

occasion at all. It only disturbs me to be thus exhibited now, and 
you are really aiming at just the opposite, aren't you? 

So let us wait, please, let me work and let time do its part. You 
will give me the deepest joy if you respect my request. May I 
count on it? . . . 

Duse is in Berlin. We shall see her play tonight (I hope) in 

t 122 ] 

To Clara Rilke Hotel Hassler, Naples 

Thursday morning [November 29, 1906] 

If one went (you remember) up our Strada Santa Lucia a few 
houses to the left, and then, instead of to the square with the 
fountain, out the other side toward the sea , there began to 
the right, following the curve of the shore, a street on the left 
side of which only the sea remained and the castle (Castello del 
Ovo) jutting out at the bend, while on the right it was bordered 
by a long line of hotels . One of these hotels recedes a little 
in order to thrust out before it a whole edifice of terraces: that 
is the Hassler; my room with its high door gives directly on these 
terraces, which run out to the right of the house into a little 
garden, in which I am now sitting; to be sure, its last flowers 
(purple asters) are faded, but over a wall hangs clematis in 
blossom, sun lies on the sea, and behind the sun, just opposite 
me, beside Sorrento's foothills, is visible the contour of Capri. 

The journey was really not bad; when I arrived I thought: 
it could go on that way for five days more, I almost wanted it 
to; because the feeling for the very foreign, for the unknown, 
was strong and decided in me. But now the trip already seems 
long ago, although there is nothing in between but a supper alone 
in the empty dining room (there seem to be only a few people 
here), a warm bath, a night under the zanzariere, in deep sleep, 
a breakfast with very pale yellow-green honey, and finally this 
moment here in the terrace garden while I have been writing. 
And five more days of travel might well have preceded it, it is 

so unfamiliar here: foreign in such a good way. There is the bay, 
now and then little silhouettes of oarsmen against it in such 
beautiful restraint of movement and just what makes a living 
creature of the boat ; sailing ships in the distance. Then the 
bend toward Posilipo, this whole rim as if just flung out, and 
to the left the protruding castle, as if in a cloak and placed against 
the sun like one of Rembrandt's figures against the light. And 
foreign the sounds; this swift trotting of little horses, this clatter- 
ing turn of primitive wheels, the little bells on the horses' necks, 
echoing the trot once more in diminished form, cries in between, 
shouts, music, children's voices, and cracking whips : every- 
thing foreign even to the cracking of live-oak fruits under my 
steps in the little garden. If it could only go on, this being 
known by no one. Your telegram was brought to me imme- 
diately upon my arrival; I was just washing up a little when they 
came with it, and right to me, actually, although I hadn't yet given 
my name at all. It now seems to me conceivable that I shall re- 
main here two or three days before I sail across into the new 
over there: into that contour which it will behoove me to fill 
out. . . . The sea has already changed twenty times while I 
have been writing, Now I am stopping and want to look. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Hotel Cocumella, Sorrento 

Friday morning [November 30, 1906] 

Today I saw Naples for the first time from the sea. But I haven't 
yet gone to Capri, only toward it in order to stay, halfway, in 
Sorrento. I was expecting to see Vollmoeller and was happy about 
this meeting after years. But it fell through. It turned out that 
he had gone to Florence and would not return until April. But 
the villa. One approaches from behind, driving up through a 
thick, dark, half-grown orange grove through which little deep- 
laid paths go out in all directions. Then comes the country- 
house, with the land in front running toward the sea one sees 
an arborway and at the end, the outline of a railing behind which 

it becomes vast and light: the sea. The road thither from Sorrento 
between walls, old houses with quite black entrances and in- 
teriors. Now and then overtaken by little wagons that pass 
breathlessly by. Above the walls, toward the sky, many orange 
trees at their greatest bearing, heavy, the colors pieced together 
like stained-glass windows. Reapers here and there. Women 
carrying too full baskets upright on their heads come gravely and 
solemnly toward one. And ever and again this fullness of fruit 
against the light sky. Sometimes an autumnal live-oak in be- 
tween, a great olive or, spread out over all, a solitary pine. 

Even on sailing in one saw those pines opened out here and 
there over the flat houses that rise, terrace after terrace, up to 
the little piazza at the very top. There is wonderfully much nature 
in this architecture; arriving in Sorrento one sees even more, when 
one leaves Naples behind in the morning on the ship: then it 
takes on more and more the character of an enormous quarry 
that is reddish and bright on its fresh surfaces between old, steep, 
long-unbroken gray. The deeper-lying parts finally fade away 
completely into reddish mist, but the castle remains, stands, shim- 
mers and still creates in the distance the impression of rock. 
Mont Valerien (opposite Meudon) could often give this im- 
pression toward evening; or also early in the day; then even the 
houses of Meudon could recede or stand out like that on the op- 
posite slopes. That is due to the plans. For a while then the ship 
gives a close view of Vesuvius, whose contours are so animated, 
one could tell by the look of them that they had just recently 
been altered again. I didn't have my glass with me. But I noticed 
how strangely the upper part of the mountain is marked by all 
the lava flows, which give this peak the character of being not yet 
completed. The light behaves strangely on this material and 
something self -illuminating results from it, so that one can a little 
bit imagine Fuji. 

And again and from somewhat nearer I saw Capri's contour, 
like a signature I have already read often. I would like to show 
you a little of all this, . . . therefore I write these few words 
quickly before I go back. 


C 1*4 1 

To C/dtni JR*7& [Picture postcard with "Fauno con otre" (Porripeii) 

dated Naples, December 2, 1906] 

Was finally in the museum today. Have seen many things 
again, only not the one little Pompeian tablet with the slender 
figures against the sea. Little fragments, single bronzes, Orpheus, 
Eurydike, Hermes; a great deal that is confirming, helpful . . , 
Monday I expect to go to Capri. . . . 

C "53 

To Clara Rilke Hotel Hassler, Naples 

[December 2, 1906] 

. . . Naples too, as indeed everything Italian, is more beau- 
tiful in the summer, as that time we were first here; now it has 
surrendered much of its character and peerlessness, now, since, 
as my barber said today: the bad weather is coming. I tried to 
modify his definite expression a little, unnoticeably, in my favor; 
but no, he would not let it be changed, now it would come and 
there would be nothing to do about it. "Pioggia, scirocco 
eh ." And he was right. Yesterday toward evening the wind 
must have shifted or it had already shifted (my sense of direc- 
tion is nothing to boast of), in short, something had changed 
after all the radiance that seemed so secure; the sea came on more 
powerfully, rose up white on the breastworks, far out was green, 
and as surface looked calm, as if grown heavy, but from across 
it came a wind, an agitated something, and, over the rising city, 
dazzling with the light that fell over it, piled up clouds, heed- 
lessly, clouds which didn't fit upon each other at all, so that 
empty places were left between or bits of light sky, squeezed in; 
piled and piled, while the evening continued to shine on every- 
thing from over there, so that the dark became always darker and 
the light more and more sudden and dazzling and the red of the 
blind arcades of the Pizzofalcone (first elevation by the sea be- 
low the castle) which are built up on top of each other, dissolved 


into red and redder and extreme, scarcely credible reds, which 
one believed could last only a moment. All that made quite with- 
out contour, simply out of a mass, like one of those powerful 
Goyas in which figures and trees and buildings and mountains 
are rolled into shape with the same energy (look at the Cucafia 
(Maypole), the little picture upstairs on the very top floor of the 
National Gallery, where there are also the beautiful Manet 
Hunter that looks like a Turgenev, and Rodins, four or five of 
them, to be seen again) . Then came the night and brought 
frightful storms; Sunday then began with a rather piercing sun, 
turned to rain, wind, change; the dull primed green of the sea, 
now and then the white (what white! ) of a seagull fading out 
against it: those are Pompeian values. It might have become clear 
to us even then that a painter could come into being here with all 
this; for painters do develop out of color, the real ones and 
color is here, and indeed in every gradation. At the corner of 
one of the black side alleys that branch off the Via Roma (the 
long, narrow main street leading up to the museum), I saw yes- 
terday the stand of a lemonade seller. Posts, roof, and back of 
his little booth were blue (of that animated blue dulling toward 
green of certain Turkish and Persian amulets) ; it was evening, 
and the lamps fastened to the back wall opposite caused every- 
thing else to stand out very resolutely before this color; even 
the earth-brown of the clay pitchers with a thin coat of water 
constantly gliding over them; the yellow of single lemons, and 
finally the smooth, glassy, ever-turning red in several big and 
little goldfish bowls. That was certainly strong, too obvious, pos- 
sibly, but nevertheless well worth noticing. Van Gogh would 
have gone back to it. Perhaps I see all this because I have been 
reading his letters (in the complete book edition, which I pro- 
cured back in Munich and which were my favorites on the long 
journey and are really beautiful, not mature in some things but 
unutterably earnest, unutterably moving, and for painters really 
like a good, helpful voice.) Title: Vincent Van Gogh, Let- 
ters. . . . 



To Elisabeth and Karl von der Heydt Villa Discopoli, Capri 

December u, 1906 

I have been here a week, and that long at least I wanted to 
wait, so that, besides the greetings I often think in your direc- 
tion, I could report to you something of what has impressed me 
and that not too unjust and momentary. But now I shall at- 
tempt a few impressions. There are first of all my immediate sur- 
roundings, and they are full of friendliness. The mistress of the 
house in a very kind way does everything for my well-being 
and gives me so much freedom and right to go my own way 
that I am able to arrange much solitude, half-days at a time and, 
if it becomes necessary, more. (My inner life really had been 
dislocated for months, I notice, and being alone provides primarily 
only a kind of psychic plaster cast, in which something is heal- 
ing.) But nothing is so important as that; already on the long trip 
I felt it. There is perhaps nothing so jealous as my profession; 
and not for me a monk's life in the close association and isola- 
tion of a cloister, but rather I must see to it that little by little I 
myself shall grow into a cloister and stand there in the world, 
with walls about me, but with God and the saints within me, with 
very beautiful pictures and furnishings within me, with courts 
around which moves a dance of pillars, with fruit orchards, vine- 
yards, and wells whose bottoms are not to be found. But to con- 
tinue with essentials. My solitude is supported by the circum- 
stance that the room I live in is quite separate, in a little house 
by itself, some fifty steps from the villa proper. For the present 
I am the only guest. . . . My room is simple and very congenial 
and already has a natural attachment to me for which I am grate- 
ful to it. 

... no one but you knows what being completely alone, 
being unobserved, unseen, invisible means to me. For three days 
in Naples I went about with it as with a treasure in all the glori- 
ously foreign world. . . . 


And now Capri. Ah yes. I really have nothing more to learn 
there. Jacobsen says somewhere: "It requires so infinitely much 
tact to handle enthusiasm." Well, this place has got its stamp 
from a very ill-exercised enthusiasm; the foreigners are away, for 
the most part, but the traces of their stupid admiration that 
always falls into the same holes are so obvious and cling so fast, 
that even the huge storms that from time to time take the island 
in their jaws do not tear them away. I am always saddened in 
such landscape exhibitions, before this evident, prize-crowned, 
unassailable beauty: since it is almost too much even to pick up 
a stone on the path, a chestnut, a withered leaf, since even the 
beauty of a little, insignificant and ordinarily trivial thing (once 
one has recognized it) makes the heart overflow, what is one to 
do in such concerts of beauty, where everything is a program 
number and rehearsed and intentional and selected? It may be 
that with these picture-books of beauty one could begin learning 
to see and to love, but I am a little bit too advanced to say Ah and 
Oh before them. Rapture-spelling is far behind me and per- 
haps my whole life joy and life task really lies in this: that, though 
very much of a beginner, I am one of those who hear the beau- 
tiful and recognize its voice, even where it scarcely lifts above 
the noises; that I know God did not set us among things in order 
to select, but rather so thoroughly and largely to keep on taking 
that in the end we can simply receive nothing else at all but beauty 
in our love, our alert attentiveness, our not to be pacified admira- 
tion. And to grow in this feeling here is not the place. The name 
Paris must have taken shape in me under the influence of this 
longing, even if I had never heard it (I believe). 

Truly, what people here have made out of a beautiful island is 
close to hideous. But that doesn't speak against them; there were 
in any case serious and thorough and significant people among 
the thousands who have collaborated here at Capri. But did you 
ever see that people arrived at agreeable results when they let 
themselves go or were active in the direction of pleasure, relaxa- 
tion, enjoyment? Neither bullfights nor music halls nor any other 
institutions of amusement, from the dance hall to the beer gar- 

den up and down, are beautiful or pleasing or ever have been 
so. The heaven of which I once heard an excited preacher speak 
in San Clemente was replete with dubious happiness, in bad taste 
and boring. But in all seriousness, isn't even Dante evidence for 
it, whose Paradise is filled with such helplessly heaped-up bliss, 
with no gradations in light, formless, full of repetition, made of 
smiling, angel-pure perplexity, as it were, of not-knowing, of 
not-being-able-to-know, of pure, blissful mendacity. And the 
Inferno beside it. What a compendium of life. What knowing, 
hailing, judging. What reality, what particularization even into 
darkest darkness; what a meeting again with the world. From this 
it does not follow that suff ering is more right than happiness and 
its surrender and expression and admission; only, so far man- 
kind has not yet attained in bliss that depth, that urgency, that 
necessity which has already become accessible to it in suffering. 
(And therefore Capri is a monstrosity.) 

For the rest, one can see Diefenbach coming to the surface 
now and then, gray in gray, of those grays that old wood of 
wooden palings takes on under the influence of sun and rain. 
And Gorky has settled down here, feted by the socialists and 
scattering money about him. I close, dear friends, in the con- 
sciousness of having spent an evening hour with you, which I 
needed. . . . 


To Countess Mary Gneisenau Villa Discopoli, Capri (Italy) 

December 15, 1906 

The rose is here with me and the wreath of everlasting (Clara 
has contrived a careful bed for them in which they can go all 
over with me without suffering ) and from both, whenever I 
find them again, comes a reminder, a summons, no, a gentle 
monitory calling-by-name of a few unsayable things I must mas- 
ter, deep in my work. You had a great faith in me, an uncon- 
scious disposition to expect valid things of me, and what you ex- 
pected of me was something you long felt must one day come. 

Out of all this, out of such a remarkably wrought context comes 
to that wonderfully placed yellow rose, comes to that small 
wreath returning a little bit resignedly into itself, the power they 
both have over me and that superiority, at the same time that 
curious being-older, which enables them to accompany me as 
it were protectively. You should see this rose a moment. Do you 
still remember it? It is little altered. I would like to be able to 
describe it to you, and perhaps I can some day. It has become, I 
can express only this much at the moment, more final, more 
inward, more withdrawn. Its fullness has not dwindled, but the 
rose seems no longer filled with itself, but rather, like an Egyp- 
tian queen, all filled out with dainty and exotic delicacies, with 
an alien fragrance, so that it no longer has to give out fragrance 
itself. There is a deep repose in it; it lies on the very bottom of 
its name, rose, there where the word grows dark, rose, and 
everything that is contained in it of movement, of memory com- 
ing and going, of swiftly ascending longing, flows away over it, 
up above, and touches it no more. But what there is in it of 
heaviness, of fate, of heaven as it were and earth, of starry night, 
of stillness, of loneliness (for how often was it alone and gave 
away beauty of its awakening, mouth of its dewy coolness, the 
way it could look out from itself toward evening, and the dif- 
fused, no longer to be contained pallor of its nights, gave away, 
gave back, to no one, to nowhere ) , but what was in it of things 
thus unsayable, of things never taken by us and yet not lost to 
us, has remained in it, no longer imperiled now, secure, come 
home, as forces have come home in a talisman, collected, as we 
are collected in our hearts, held back by nothing, yet without 
inclination to stream out, quite absorbed, as it were, in the en- 
joyment of our own equilibrium. You should see this rose a mo- 
ment. Were you to see what I am trying to evoke here, only for 
the little while your eyes spend over this letter, were you to see 
how it has retained your gesture, the movement by which your 
beautiful hands compelled it to lie thus (there was a little, 
tenderly-impatient compulsion in that), you would understand 
that you gave me indescribably much that time, extravagantly 

_ H3 

much, so that, my hands still all filled with this rose, I was unable 
later, in meeting again, to grasp anything at all. Have I let some- 
thing fall? Has something broken? Your image stands before me, 
Countess Mary, in all the innate, lovely pride you bear so grandly 
and are so equal to, and for which we first began to admire you. 
(Ah, what a long, thousandfold admiration, how many eve- 
nings we have spent, Clara and I, enumerating your beauties, and 
could not find an end nor get to sleep for doing it.) And now 
your image stands before me just like that in the solitude (and 
now, please, don't be angry) that so well becomes it. If I prayed 
for you, I would pray for you not to break through it, this soli- 
tude, not now, not impatiently, not at any price. It is difficult, 
certainly; but it seems more difficult to you because you take it 
for an empty space, while it must be there, as space for the 
radiance that emanates from your figure. Was I permitted to say 
that? Where may you be? . . . 

To Clara Rilke Villa Discopoli, Capri 

Monday, December 17, 1906 

I could read your letter (the fifth) . . . over and over again. 
Hearkening anew each time in my heart. ... If Lou knew how 
many such letters I write to myself in thought. Long letters, with 
just such objections. They are all quite familiar to me. I know 
their faces into which I have looked for hours, I know how they 
come nearer and nearer and straight and blindly at me. And yet 
there is something new in the way they came this time, some- 
thing that made me more attentive than perhaps I ever was to 
them. I thank you ... for this handing on of words which 
merely to take, to arrange and, where you thought best, to re- 
ject, must have been laborious and exacting enough for you, . . . 
So that too came on top of the many, many things you are in 
the midst of. Came and used you, used all your strength, your 
memory of words, of facts, of sorrows, of the ruthless, almost 
desperate exaggerations by which I sometimes try to get to the 


very bottom of sincerity, thereby causing pain to you and to 
myself. You had to see all that rise up before you, with all the 
menace, hardness, momentary hopelessness that comes up with 
it, and had to find the determination, this clearheaded superiority, 
to set yourself above it, confronting Lou, and to defend what has 
so often attacked you when you yourself were without defense. 
. . . With me it is like this: I am all eagerness not to miss any 
of these voices that are to come. I want to hear each one, I want 
to take out my heart and hold it in the midst of the condemning 
and censuring words so that it is not touched by them on one side 
only and from a distance. But at the same time I will not give 
up my hazardous, so often irresponsible position and exchange 
it for a more explainable, more resigned post until the last, the 
ultimate, final voice has spoken to me; for only in this situation 
am I accessible and open to them all, only in this situation shall 
I be found by all I am to meet of destiny, appeal, or power, only 
from here can I one day obey, obey as absolutely as I am now 
absolutely resisting. By each premature compliance with that 
which in the guise of "duty" tries to subdue me and make me 
useful, I would indeed shut out of my life a few uncertainties 
and the semblance of that constant desire for evasion, but I feel 
that thus also the great, wonderful aids that take hold in me 
in almost rhythmical succession would be shut out of a fore- 
seeable order, directed by energy and a sense of duty, in which 
they no longer belong. Lou thinks one has no right to choose be- 
tween duties and to shirk the immediate and natural ones; but my 
immediate and natural ones have always, even in my boyhood, 
been these on the side of which I keep trying to stand, and if I 
wished to take on others, it was not as a new task added to that 
first, already too great one, but because I believed I discerned in 
certain duties a point of support, an aid, something that would be 
a firm place in the instability of my homelessness, something un- 
shiftable, lasting, real. I didn't actually plan to do anything for 
the inception and existence of this reality, I thought it would 
come, as everything wonderful comes, out of the depths of our 
union, out of its tremendous necessity and purity. I really couldn't 

with a good conscience take on any new work, a new profession, 
and if I said responsibility, I meant and desired responsibility for 
the deepest, most inward existence of a reality dear and inde- 
structibly related to me. And have I shirked this responsibility? 
Am I not trying, as well as ever I can, to bear it and, on the other 
hand, hasn't my longing been, on the whole, infinitely fulfilled? 
What does misfortune in trivial matters prove against it; how can 
the circumstance refute me that we must keep postponing our 
life together, which practically too is one of mutual support, since 
only with you two did my world grow into the nameless, did 
it begin to grow outward in those days, from that little, snow- 
covered house in which Ruth was born, and since then has been 
growing and growing, out from that center upon which I can- 
not narrow my attention as long as the periphery is pushing for- 
ward ahead on all sides into the infinite? But has there not only 
since then been a center, something immovable, a star from whose 
position I could for the first time determine the movement of 
my heaven and could name the constellations that before were 
but a throng? Aren't you two now the one tree in the indescrib- 
ably wide plain of my journeying to which I always find my way 
back, toward which I often look in order to know where I am 
and whither I must go on? If we are living thus separated from 
each other by days of travel, and trying to do that which our 
hearts require of us day and night (are we not turning away from 
the difficult for the sake of the difficult? Have I not this con- 
sciousness at least for myself, as I am trying to live this lonely 
life?), tell me: isn't there a house about us after all, a real one, 
for which only the visible sign is lacking so that others do not 
see it? But do we not see it most clearly for just that reason, this 
dear house in which we are together as from the very first, and 
out of which we shall go some day only to step into the garden? 

This orderly course, into which in minor matters we would 
have to be policed (I understand very well and quite seriously 
what Lou meant by that) , have not angels already held us to it 
with the deep, convinced inexorability that is given to angels? 

Ah, . . . you understand that I would like to make iny powers 


and my standard measure up to big things; even as a boy, I had 
the feeling of being attached to great and mature people as to 
older brothers and sisters, for I never believed that one becomes 
worthy of associating with them by dealing first with the medi- 
ocre and inferior. It may often seem, therefore, as if I were living 
life in reverse; the majority take it on the other way round, and 
they also manage to rise by the ordinary up to the beginning of 
the extraordinary, yes, even into the extraordinary. That may 
hold and remain valid for them. For me, the ascent from that 
side was an impossibility. Spiritually overstrained and physically 
spent as I was from early days, I would have stuck in the begin- 
nings of the ordinary and died one way or another. But then for 
the first time those powers came into play which, in lifting me 
over the immediate obstacles, set me at the beginning of greater 
and less temporal tasks, for which I had in a remarkable way be- 
come ripe and not yet disheartened. Then, in that Beyond as it 
were, I began my work (and of course Lou was the first person 
who helped me to it), not lifted away over the weight of life, but 
over the difficulties; there, outside of all my anxieties, I became 
established in the feeling to which I would never have found a 
way below: in the love of life, grown out of the experience, so 
indispensable to me, that the hostile thing is not life but myself, 
I myself, and with me all the rest; then I received from inde- 
scribably knowing hands the right to that devotion which, below, 
would have become an annihilation for me, while above, among 
the great powers, it became my beauty, my growth, that on 
which I may boundlessly rely. 

And if I persevere up there where I have now spent the greater 
part of my mature life, am I not in the real, in the difficult, among 
duties? And mustn't there come a place, if only I go far enough, 
where above and below pass into each other as unnoticeably as 
also happens one day with those who have gone the other, the 
lower way, honestly and loyally to the end? 

I feel a little like the Russian people, of whom also outsiders or 
persons who have become distrustful say that it must eventually 
be drawn out of its previous development over to the normal 


path of growth and must fix its eyes upon reality, in order to come 
to anything. And it would come to something then too, most 
certainly. As western people have come to something, to this 
and that, from one thing to another. But would it come to the 
one thing for which alone, beyond everything, its soul longs? I 
believe it would then be completely cut off from it and forever. 
May nobody at all then go toward this one thing, which even 
those who renounce it, in their very renunciation, crave so 

For the Russian people the "chances" do seem to have come 
to an end. I have one more. I know I have not always made use 
of all of them as I should, I have perhaps even wasted one or two, 
but still I accept them each time more like very great tasks and 
demands, and if God gives me so very many and always one more 
it is not too many, so long as he believes it necessary; perhaps 
he will not stop, because I do understand him better and better 
and in the taking of these chances am making little advances, for 
which I would offer him my little book as proof, if he required 
one. . . . 

C "*] 

To Clara Rilke Villa Discopoli, Capri 

December 19, [1906] evening 

. . . can one read a letter on Christmas Eve; but above all: 
how is one to write one four days ahead that can be read on that 
evening? I am not writing to Ruth. It is not I who should speak 
to her, nor is it you, although you will be beside her and will feel 
her fine, soft hair against your cheek when you look together 
into the tree that is to speak to you both, to her especially, to the 
dear, dear child who now, when you see her again, will already 
reach up a little farther on you and deeper into your hand. Look 
at her well when you see her again ... see her again not only 
as a mother, see her also with your serious worker's eyes: then you 
can be quite happy. Before those eyes that evening will be com- 
plete, and if you do not let yourself be confused, it will not seem 


strange and disturbing that I am not really standing beside you: 
. . . indeed nothing, nothing can keep me from being about 
you so that you feel me; and when I really used to be there, 
there still was (except for that first Christmas Eve in Wester- 
wede) always much of me that only reproachfully stood by, that, 
if not at the last moment, yet even an hour before, would gladly 
have been alone, far away, God knows where. This face that 
met yours and was sometimes taken by Ruth's dear little hands: 
and held against a firm, warm, happy cheek, this face felt itself 
so unfinished, even on that evening, and was so too. This face 
ought to be in solitude, much behind its hands, much in the dark. 
It ought to be there for its thoughts and from its thoughts to 
look out toward no one, finding a bit of sky, a tree, a path, some- 
thing simple with which it can begin, something that is not yet 
too difficult for it; how often when you looked at it ... it was 
a face distraught in its unfinishedhess, one that had not gone 
deeply enough inward and not far enough outward, a face that 
had stopped halfway, like an only partly silvered mirror, re- 
flecting in some places, in others transparent, and you never 
saw in it the greatness of your trust and the whole of your love 
which it was not capable of receiving. But if it is sometime to be 
given back to you better, it must be worked on for a long time 
yet, night and day. For this Christmas it has not been finished. 
But it is in good hands, and when it is a little farther along you 
shall see it again, and then, each time, there will also be some- 
thing like Christmas; each time, even in the middle of the year. 

Do you remember . . . our two restrained Christmas Eves? 
(the one in the rue de PAbbe de Fpee, the one in Rome in the 
Studio al Ponte, both of which were so much less authentic be- 
cause neither of us could be with Ruth, where everything turns 
into Christmas of itself when the hour comes) ; how much we felt 
even then that we must mingle our work so deeply with ourselves 
that its workdays would lead out of themselves to holidays, to 
our true holidays. Everything else is indeed only a schedule such 
as we had in school; many, many set things and the empty places 
for Sunday and for Christmas and Easter. Empty places one fills 

up with something that is in contrast to the other, the fixed; and 
so we have still gone on accepting all those periods that came 
up with the calendar somewhat like vacations, finding distraction 
in them and always gladly putting off the end, although we 
already had an inkling of those holidays that spring from one's 
own heart, that are no contrast to the weeks that unnoticeably 
bring them along, and no distraction and no loitering away of 
vague days. Only once perhaps since we have been together did 
the two fall at the same time. You know when. On the twelfth 
I relived so strongly that indescribable feeling of Christmas which 
filled our lonely house then and went on increasing in it, so that 
one might have believed it must be reaching far out beyond it into 
cold days, into the long nights of Advent; that it must be visible 
even for those who passed at a distance, must have changed every- 
thing so that people far away came over and looked. But no one 
came, and what stood there was nothing but a little house, over- 
burdened with an enormous thick roof that seemed common- 
place to human beings, but of which the angels perhaps knew 
that it had the right measurements, those with which they measure 
the great space surrounding it. It was like the smallest part of that 
endless scale, the unit of measure, which keeps recurring and 
with which one can reach to the end, without adding anything 
else but the same thing over and over. 

You know . . . what Christmas was to me in my early child- 
hood; even when the military academy made a hard, unbelievably 
malicious life, devoid of wonders, appear so real that no other 
reality seemed possible to me beside that undeserved one; even 
then Christmas was still real and was that which approached with 
a fulfillment that went out beyond all wishes, and when it was 
out beyond the very last, never even wished ones, then only did it 
really begin, then what had hitherto walked, unfolded wings 
and flew, flew till it was no longer to be seen and one knew only 
its direction, in the great flowing light. , 

And all that still, still had power over me. And in each of those 
years when I built up a Christmas for us or for Ruth, I rather 
scorned what I had built because it fell so far short of that wonder 

which I knew had not just grown spontaneously and unhindered 
in my imagination: so great, so indescribable had it always been. 

And then I sat a long time on the twelfth and thought; thought 
of the whole deep time of grace that went through our hearts 
then. Felt again the evening before in the living room; the morn- 
ing, the early one first, by candlelight, in which the New rose up, 
spreading fear like a flood and terror; then the later morning in 
the winter light with its entirely new order, with its impatience, 
its anticipation strained to the limit, which through the little, 
momentary and tangible fulfillments grew to ever stronger ten- 
sion; then that whole steep forenoon, as if one had to go up a 
mountain quickly, much too quickly, and finally, in all that was 
uncertain, not conceivable, not possible: something real, a reality 
which, fabulously bound up with the wonderful, was hardly to 
be distinguished from it and yet real. And after that at last, spread- 
ing gradually out, a relief that was at first received like that which 
comes when a pain ceases, and yet was a quite different, lasting 
relief, as it turned out later. And then suddenly, a life on which 
one could stand; now it carried one and was conscious of one 
while it carried. What would I be without the stillness which 
arose in me then; what, without that whole experience in which 
reality and miracle had become identical; what, without those 
weeks of surrender in which, for the first time, I did not lose; 
what, without those simple services which awoke in me a readi- 
ness I hadn't known; what, without those night vigils: when the 
night, the winter night lay cold upon my eyes, which I closed, 
drawing into this closing, too, through the tendril tracery of the 
grape arbor, a distant star outside; when there was simply still- 
ness, stillness of that greatest stillness that I did not yet know, 
while against this background, the smallest of the incompre- 
hensively new sounds stood out clear and distinct. 

Hardly ever has anyone who wasn't working kept watch so 
justly and with so much zeal, holding so profoundly still, as I 
did then, when, as I now know, work was being done on me. 
Like a plant that is to become a tree, so was I taken then out of 
the little container, carefully, while earth ran off and some light 

came to my roots, and was planted in my place for good, there 
where I was to stand until my old age, in the great, whole, real 

And when I thought further of the twelfth, and thought that 
then Christmas was coming, only that Christmas came to my 
mind, only the hall which was so big and so shadowy up to the 
bright, big tree to which you drew near for a while, quickly, 
with an uncertainty that was quite girlish again, more girlish 
than anything, holding the tiny head against your lovely face 
and together with it into the radiance which neither of you could 
see, each filled with her own life and the other's. 

Then only did I notice that for me that Christmas was still 
there and not like one that once was and has passed, but rather 
like an everlasting, eternal Christmas celebration to which one's 
inner eye can turn as often as it needs. All at once, joy and bliss 
and anticipation of other Christmases had become small behind it; 
as if those had rather been my good, loyal father's Christmases, his 
anxious, provident heart's own holiday. But this was mine: all light 
and dark, and still, and unrepeatable. . . . 

Out of all this too arose my ability for once to be alone this 
Christmas and yet not anxious or sad. Now I'll not write more, 
but shall just go on thinking, and you two will feel it. ... 

To Clara Rilke Villa Discopoli, Capri (Italy) 

January i, 1907 

, . . This morning began so radiantly, now it is becoming a 
gray day; but first there was a shining as from a brand-new, never 
used year. And the night was a bright, distant one that seemed to 
rest above far more than just the earth; one felt that it lay above 
oceans and far out beyond, above space, above itself, above stars 
that looked toward its own stars out of endless depths. All that 
was mirrored in it and held by it above the earth and hardly 
even held any longer: for it was like a continual overflowing of 

I thought there would perhaps be midnight Mass and went out 
after eleven; the streets and footpaths between the walls lay there 
long, like lowered outspread banners, black and white, made of 
a strip of wall shadow beside a strip of light; for it was the first 
night after full moon, and the moon stood very high in the sky 
and sharply outshone all the stars, so that only here and there a 
distant very big one flared so strongly that some darkness was 
formed about it. How the illumined rims of the walls dazzled, 
how the leaves of the olives were made entirely of night, as if cut 
out of skies, old, no longer used night skies. And the mountain 
slopes had such an air of lunar decay and towered up out of 
the houses like something unmastered. And the houses were dark, 
and where the wooden shutters had not been closed over them, 
the windows had the faded, translucent look of blind eyes. Fi- 
nally, on the little piazza under the clock tower, there was stand- 
ing a crowd of Capri youths in rendezvous. Out of a little coffee- 
house with red curtains, which was set into the blackest corner, 
came now and then the impatient rattling of a tambourine. The 
arch of a gate spanned a narrow street leading upward and 
snatched in a bit of sky with its curve and held it against the street. 
A step in wooden shoes clattered along by the houses, the clock 
began and struck the last quarter before midnight. But the church 
was shut, as if it had been closed for decades. And what rang out 
from over there, far off and yet oddly penetrating, from the olive 
slopes and from the vineyards, was no Christian singing. Heavy 
voices full of old wavering laments, long drawn out, without be- 
ginning, not as if they were suddenly starting, only as if one's 
ear were unexpectedly tuned to some continuously held tone; 
voices seemingly fetched out again from the hearing of remote 
mountain-faces; voices that come into being of themselves, as 
though night wind were caught in the soul of an animal; long, 
heavy, wavering voices, calls and series of calls of a primeval 
natural drunkenness, dull, unconscious, more tolerated than 
willed, and intermittently, laughter breaking out flamelike and 
quickly consuming itself, short, alert, and warm as out of a sum- 
mer night, and then again, moonlight; paths, walls, houses, an 

_ 253 

earth of moonlight, of moon shadow, that keeps still while with 
strange meaningfulness New Year's midnight strikes, slowly lay- 
ing stroke on stroke: each all smooth, all spread out, foldless, as 
if it were to be preserved like that. 

I had gone back again to my little house and stood up on its 
roof and wanted to see a good end in all that and to find a good 
beginning in myself. And now let us believe in a long year that 
is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never 
been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, 
and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting 
fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of 
it necessary, serious, and great things. 

To Clara Rilke Villa Discopoli, Capri 

January 18, 1907 (Friday) 

. , . My trip back was like the back of a book cover whose 
title was that first morning, when I took the trip I described (a 
week ago today) . Between the two our reunion lies like a single 
long light day: out of it I have so much memory of waking, so 
little of sleep. At the top of the title page stood the little moon- 
end, on the back of the jacket the beginning of a new moon, 
shining very bright and sharp, as I drove up evening before last 
from the Grande Marina. Then I intended to climb up very 
early on the heights of the Tiberio to see the "Oceana" once more 
from there; but then nothing came of it, I was too tired, 
couldn't refrain, though, from climbing up later at least, in the 
forenoon that was warm and radiant and full of the seduction of 
spring. On top there stands a little santuario beside a tall-columned 
statue of Mary, and a young monk lives beside it; he told me 
he had seen the lights of a big ship in the middle of the night, 
and then we stood and looked southward into the glittering of 
the sun, in which, far away already, it must have been moving 
on somewhere with all its windows flashing, dazzling far and 
wide with its high white prow . 


I couldn't begin anything at all yesterday; I was merely con- 
tinuing to live what had just been, and let myself go into the 
sun and be a thing shone upon among the many over which the 
day was passing inexhaustibly. I looked at the fig trees against 
the blue sea and found rosemary, which I know now and 
couldn't even get to this letter, which I originally wanted to 
write immediately. . . . 

C 'JO 

To Clara Rilke Villa Discopoli, Capri 

Sunday, January 20, 1907 

... it is again a Sunday, and I am still so much in the holiday 
feeling of our dear reunion that it seems to me I should be calling 
for you in a while down there in the Villa Pagano. But when I 
look up, my glance falls on the opened atlas, always on the same, 
now familiar plate which looks like a genealogical tree represent- 
ing the tremendous, long life of an ancestor, and which at the 
very end branches and spreads far and wide. Again and again I 
take a look at this stream that performs miracles, and more and 
more it seems to me to represent the history of the gods of that 
land; the mysterious, never known origin of the deity from the 
exhaustless stores of high-lying lakes, its long, powerful, growing 
course in which it always worked the same way on everything it 
encountered, and finally its disintegration into arms and branches, 
into the many lesser gods with which every culture disembogues, 
fades out, becomes unrecognizable. 

I have brought over the big Andree and am deep in this re- 
markably unified page; I admire the course of this stream's line 
which, rising like a Rodin contour, contains a profusion of varied 
movement, recessions, and turns like a coronal suture, millions 
of tiny gestures with which it turns to the right and to the left, 
like someone who goes through a crowd distributing and sees one 
more person here and one more there who has need of him, and 
progresses but slowly. For the first time I feel a river thus, so in 
its essence, so real to the verge of personification, so as if it had 


a destiny, a dark birth and a great, spread-out death, and between 
the two a life, a long, tremendous, princely life that kept every- 
one in its neighborhood busy, for millenniums; it was so big, so 
demanding, so little to be mastered. (How impersonal the Volga 
was by contrast, how much only an immense road through that 
other sublime land whose God is everywhere still in the process 
of becoming .) But while I follow the holy worker of miracles 
on its way past names heavy with a sediment of ancient meanings, 
the desert, like a counterpart to its visibleness and security, rises 
up uncertain, without end and without beginning, like something 
uncreated; expanses that sometimes stand up and are everywhere, 
destroying the heavens with their nothingness, a tissue of ancient 
roads canceling each other, a sea whose ebb goes to the very bot- 
tom and whose flood to the stars, rising like wrath, incalculable, 
incomprehensible, not to be stemmed. When one has seen the 
sea and has become accustomed to the endless presence of the 
skies mirroring the flat earth, sides against which that earth else- 
where braces itself with the buttresses of its mountain ranges, 
when one has grasped a beginning of all that, there still remains 
this one thing, not included: the desert. You will see it. Will see 
the head of the great Sphinx that with effort holds itself up out 
of the desert's continual swell, that head and that face which 
men began in its shape and size, whose expression, however, and 
gaze and knowledge were completed unspeakably slowly and so 
entirely differently from our countenance. We take our inner 
images and place them outside us, we avail ourselves of every 
opportunity to shape a world, we set up object after object 
around our inner selves : but here was a reality that thrust 
itself from without into these features that are nothing but stone. 
The mornings of millenniums, a people of winds, the rising and 
setting of countless stars, the great presence of the constellations, 
the glow of these skies and their spaciousness were there and 
were there again and again, working on it, not ceasing before 
the deep indifference of this face, until it seemed to gaze, until 
it showed every sign of a gazing at just these images, until it lifted 
itself up like the face to some inside in which all this was con- 

tained and occasion and desire and need for it all. And then, at 
the moment when it was full of all that confronted it, and formed 
by its surroundings, then its expression too had already grown 
out beyond them. Now it was as though the universe had a face 
and this face flung images out beyond it, out beyond the farthest 
stars, thither, where images had never yet been . . . Tell me 
. . . isn't it like that? I imagine it must be like that: endless 
space, space that goes on beyond the stars must, I believe, have 
come into being round about this image ... 

C '33 1 

To Elisabeth von der Heydt Villa Discopoli, Capri 

February 10, 1907 

... I have already given up counting on the weekdays; their 
program is completely taken up with what I want or should or 
would like to do and of which at best only a hundred and seventy- 
second part is ever carried out. But that Sunday after Sunday 
passes by without my at last getting around once more to asking 
about you with a few words and reporting to you with a few 
others what there may be to report, that I no longer wish to 
countenance ... I have intended to send you a little sign, if 
not before, at least when there was something really good to 
impart. That is now the case. Not so good, I admit, as I hoped 
in time to be able to write, but still something good that closely 
affects me personally and that you especially ought to know. 
Namely: the Book of Hours is sold out (five hundred copies in 
something over a year! ) , and we are setting about printing a new 
edition, eleven hundred copies this time. That is a great, very 
unexpected joy for me: and a hope: and an agreeable strength- 
ening of my relations with the Insel-Verlag, which in this way 
bestows on me more and more confidence. Since I have had this 
news, I am looking a little more assured again. The last weeks 
have been good and not good: according to the way you look at 
it. Good: because I want for nothing; I have everything neces- 
sary and our little circle, as it has finally been rounded out, shows 


me every kindness. . . . There is no longer anything casual in 
our companionship, we have many and interesting things to say 
to each other . . . not good: because, being the way I am, the 
talent for light, merely refreshing conversation is entirely lacking 
in me and every association, especially every good association, 
inveigles me into conversational expenditures that cause a deficit 
which makes itself felt in my work. 

I have done all kinds of things and some that are good. But I 
have again stored up so very much longing for complete solitude, 
for solitude in Paris. How right I was when I considered that the 
next necessity, and how much harm I did myself when, contrary 
to all understanding, I half missed, half wasted this opportunity. 
Will it come again? On that, it seems to me, everything depends, 
and that is the question and worry which greatly occupies and 
bothers me, the more so as I myself have not yet done much about 
it since I have been here. 

I can already foresee a little that I shall have learned much 
here and also done many things, but perhaps shall have brought 
no single work far enough along for it to be converted at once 
into money. So much is growing, quite organically, I feel, but 
very slowly, and I destroy everything if I push and hurry. To 
the poems in the Rundschau ("Orpheus, Eurydike, Hermes," etc.) 
new ones are being added; something like a new Book of Hours 
is beginning^ But what will be ready at the end of these weeks? 
Not much, I fear. 

So, I am working as well as I can, and you will feel, dear Frau 
v.d. Heydt, that this is not meant as a complaint, much rather 
as a short bulletin which your valued friendship surely allows 
me or expects of me. . . . 

C 'W3 

To Clara Rilke Villa Discopoli, Capri 

February 18, 1907 

. . . Evening has come, and I am tired because this evening's 
day was very beautiful, an endlessly shining, blue, soaring day, 

the first of its kind; one of those which in Rome too I remem- 
ber well, even at this season sometimes surprised and over- 
whelmed us: one is planning this or that, something quite definite, 
perfectly ordinary, specified, that is a continuation of some- 
thing of yesterday, but then a day dawns that has no yester- 
day (still less a tomorrow), a leap day so to speak, and one no- 
tices* it on waking, right away, even before looking out, as if 
it had penetrated one's very sleep. And besides this Antonio came 
in to me and with: e splendida la giornata (and at the splen . . . 
his smile burst open like a fruit over those south-Italian teeth) . 
Then I already knew I would have to take a walk, a long walk; 
in order to distribute guilt and conscience somewhat (guilt and 
conscience for so frivolous a decision distracting me from my 
desk), I asked the Countess to go out with me, and we went up 
on Monte Solaro and looked at the island like birds and felt quite 
as if next moment we could be high above the sea too; for Monte 
Solaro, at its extreme peak, pressed but slightly against the soles 
of our feet, and what bore and surrounded one was, above all, 
that which belongs to the birds: that deep glittering blue which, 
on its front so to speak, was warm and full and mild and seemed 
to be lined with sea wind as with silk, when it turned over from 
time to time and, blowing, touched one with its underside. I am 
beginning to discover Anacapri, the farthermost Anacapri that 
lies beyond that last point we reached together. It gets very 
lonely and wild there and goes on like that by itself for a long 
time, and if one sees a shepherd that is a great deal. And the 
houses are left behind, and where the few stony paths can finally 
go no farther, there is the sea again, or rather, there is another 
sea, one through which Odysseus might come again at any mo- 
ment, an ancient Grecian sea, beginning deep, deep down below 
one and out of sight. It really is here too (I read recently) that 
Odysseus came by, and today from Monte Solaro we saw 
lying in the Gulf of Salerno the three islands of the Sirens (strange 
rocks, obstructing the way, that looked as though they had once 
been gilded), past which, lashed to the mast and only by this co- 

ercion safe from the inavertible force that came ringing across, 
distilled in the light wind, he sailed along, much too slowly for 
his safety, an infinitely long time, as it must have seemed to him. 
And on such days and removed from the inquisitiveness and 
pettiness of the foreigner's town, up there in the mountain 
lands of a shepherd's world, there grows upon one slowly and 
blurring ever and again, an inkling of that southernness of an- 
tiquity of which Uexkiill wrote recently. When you come we 
must be up there a lot; up there you must tell, up there I will 
listen. By then, of course, the days that are now an exception 
will have become daily ones and yet, I am assured, for that 
reason no less lonely in those regions that are under the protec- 
tion of their own remoteness and being-half-accessible (unless 
a hereditary something still preserves them untouched). 

We were back again for lunch, but the afternoon passed rather 
with the echo of all that; I sat by my little house in half sunlight 
and walked up and down in front of it till the stars came out. 
I wanted to tell you a lot more today about your words, with 
which you evoked the desert, the indescribable desert; . . . you 
will already know how keenly I felt it, how here it burst your 
hasty expression of it, into which it (or something of it) had 
been compressed, and was there before me, infinite again and 
unsayable, as it is. More wanted to be written to all this, but 
now too much new sun is vibrating in me, from today, and I 
cannot rightly recognize anything within me. 

C wl 

To Clara Rilke [Capri, February 22, 1907] 

. . . with a few words only I come to thank you for your let- 
ter, the fifth; I can well understand it in everything and go with 
you even into your sadness, that sadness so deeply familiar to me, 
for which one can naturally find reasons . . . and which is 
nevertheless only a sensitive spot in us, always the same, one of 
those spots which, when they hurt, can no longer be identified, 


so that in all the dull feeling of pain we do not know how to 
recognize and treat them. I know all that. And there is a happi- 
ness too, which is similar and perhaps one must still somehow 
manage to get beyond both. I thought so just recently when 
several days in succession I climbed up into the lonely mountain 
slopes of Anacapri and was so happy up there, so painfully happy 
in my soul too. But always one lets them fall again, the one and 
the other: this happiness, that sadness. One has neither as yet. And 
what is one, so long as one gets up and a wind out there, a bright- 
ness, a melody of bird voices in the air can take one and do 
with one what it will? It is good to hear and to see and to take 
all that, not to be blunted by it, on the contrary: to feel it ever 
more thousandfold in all its variation, yet without losing oneself 
through it. 

Once I said to Rodin on an April day that was full of spring: 
"how it releases one, the way one must collaborate with all the 
sap and exert oneself till one is tired . Don't you know that 
too? " And he, who surely knew of his own accord how to take 
spring, with a quick glance: "Ah Je n'y ai jamais fait atten- 
tion." That is what we have to learn, to not pay attention to cer- 
tain things; to be too collected to touch them with some sensitive 
side when one can never come close to them with one's whole 
being. To feel everything only with one's 'whole life; then much 
(that is too slight) remains shut out, but all the important things 
happen. ... 

To Gudrun Baroness Uexkiill Villa Discopoli, Capri 

February 24, 1907 

. . . for a week now Walter Gale's book has been here in my 
hands, and I haven't yet acknowledged its arrival or given you 
any word of thanks. I would like to have added at once to such 
thanks a comment on my relationship to those notebooks; but at 
present I have not read far enough to be able to speak in more 


than general terms; a vague sympathy arises in me for this man 
quickly and resolutely departed, but as yet after a few poems 
it is not sufficiently positive and fixed for me to be able to 
define it. I wonder whether here just a fleeting thought a 
person quickly matured by loneliness and doubt has not mistaken 
the call to understanding for the task of the artist? Whether it 
wasn't in this that his doom kept hidden, that which finally 
would no longer be moved and came forth and overpowered 
him? Much maturity comes together in this young man, in him 
the transitory it seems to me is transposed into the simultane- 
ous, as in a painting: but the absence of development implied in 
such conditions corresponds so little with the calling which be- 
gins every day anew, every day with nothing of the artist, who 
may take neither the burden of knowledge nor the denying 
doubts of ignorance with him on his way, which leads him from 
miracle to miracle. Too quickly and too easily for an artist this 
man whose life was cut off masters the tasks in which one still in 
process of becoming slowly learns to value patience and love and 
devotion according to their difficulty. He remains too general; his 
love enters too little into the particular, into the unimportant, 
the unassuming, to win from them the unit of measure that al- 
ready in the next greater occurs a million times. He rides too 
much in the express trains of thought, in the luxury trains of 
modern, fast, dizzy thinking, from one end of philosophy to the 
other. If he had only insisted more (I wish inwardly) on walk- 
ing, walking barefoot where possible, taking in every little stone, 
the edge of every grass-blade, and now and then stooping over 
some modest find: because then I would have met him, while 
like this he always drives past me, impatient, restless as he is. ... 
But perhaps I feel it this way because I was rash enough to 
read both the introductions, which are only misleading and of 
which the one by his friend especially makes one feel with dis- 
may how unalterably lonely the man was who wrote thus and 
thought thus and in the end wanted to do neither any more. , . . 


C >37 1 

To Clara Rilke Villa Discopoli, Capri 

February 25, 1907 

. . , You wish me "Spring at last," and your wish has been 
immediately and very well fulfilled: even a week ago I was able 
to report to you the kind of walks I am taking and with what 
joy I find them. Those remote paths up there in Anacapri, those 
views out on the ancient Grecian sea, the being alone beside the 
little locked-up church and among the broad mountain slopes 
which at one place enclose something like an amphitheater, on the 
open side of which Vesuvius looks in, with the snow-mountains 
standing a little back on either side : I have often sought all 
that out again in the past week, the first half of which completely 
fulfilled your wish. Spring was suddenly so very much here, and 
this going-into-it was so very like something important that my 
conscience remained light, although I consumed many hours for 
it, all the mornings almost. This being-in-the-sun and breathing- 
in-spring-sky and this listening to the little bird voices that are so 
well distributed one seems to feel how in every spot in the air 
that can bear, there is one, and the confirmation of the sense of 
belonging that increases in one from it all: this, I think, can lead 
to no losing or missing anything. And however much reason I 
may have to force myself to my desk, yet again and again I go 
with it, if the morning suddenly calls somewhere outside in a 
way that makes one feel there must be another morning some- 
where, a very big morning, the morning of the seagulls and of 
the island birds, the morning of the slopes and of the inaccessible 
flowers, that ever the same eternal morning that has not yet to 
reckon with human beings, who blink at it dubiously, mistrust- 
fully, and critically out of their before-breakfast mood. And one 
need only walk for half an hour, with those quick, light, early 
steps that take one so incredibly far, to have it really around one, 
the sea-morning that is sure everything in it is with it and noth- 
ing against it; that in its opening its own gesture repeats itself 
thousands and thousands of times, till it slows down in the little 

flowers and as it were collects itself. And with it all, I certainly 
feel what you wrote recently: that such spring mornings belong 
to a foreign spring, that my own . . . would be infinitely more 
cautious and hesitant and less obvious. Don't you remember how 
much I came to miss in Rome that spring which keeps pace with 
our hearts? How shocked I too was at the frivolous simultaneous- 
ness of all that blossoming, at its showiness, its impatience, cor- 
rected by nothing and so effortlessly put through? How we 
scorned that soon appeased nightingale, in whose badly composed 
song could no longer be recognized at all the yearning that we 
knew so well. Yes, I understood it then, and now too I know very 
well what you mean, and that you are right. It is possible that our 
nature really often avenges itself for the inappropriate alien things 
we expect of it, and that between us and our environment rifts 
occur that do not remain entirely on the surface. But why did our 
forebears read about all these foreign things: while they let them 
grow to dreams within them, to desires, to vague fantastic pic- 
tures, while they suffered their hearts to change pace, spurred on 
by some adventurousness, while, boundless and misunderstood dis- 
tance within them, they stood at the window with a gaze that 
almost scornfully turned its back upon the court and the garden 
out there, they quite literally conjured up that which we now 
have to do and, as it were, to make good. With their surround- 
ings, which they no longer saw, they lost sight of all reality, the 
near seemed to them boring and commonplace, and what dis- 
tance was depended on their mood and imagination. And in the 
process near and far passed into oblivion. So it has fallen to us 
not to differentiate at all between the two, to take upon ourselves 
and to restore both again, as the one reality which in truth is 
nowhere divided or closed off and which is not ordinary close 
around us and romantic a little further on, and not boring here 
and full of variety yonder. They distinguished so spasmodically 
in those days between the foreign and the accustomed; they did 
not notice how both are everywhere in densest interpenetration. 
They saw only that the near did not belong to them, and so they 
thought that what was really possessable and valuable would be 


abroad, and longed for it. And they considered their unconfined 
and inventive longing a proof of its beauty and greatness. For 
they still fully believed that we can fetch something into our- 
selves, draw it in, swallow it, whereas really we are so filled up 
from the start that not the smallest thing could be added. But 
things can all exercise influence. And they all do exercise it from 
afar, near as well as distant things, none touches us, all communi- 
cate with us across separations, and the ring on my hand can no 
more enter into me than the farthest stars can into us: only as with 
rays can all things reach us, and as the magnet evokes and sets in 
order the powers in some Sensitive object, so they can create a 
new order in us as they act upon us. And before this insight do 
not near and far vanish? And isn't it our insight? This as pro- 
visional answer to your beautiful letter. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Villa Discopoli, Capri 

March 4, 1907 

. . . my windows and my doors are open, and I can hear how 
it is turning to evening outside. I recognize the stillness of this 
coming of evening, which is composed of many small sounds, of 
many verse beginnings of little bird songs, now opening up more 
and more like all things round about. Do you remember that 
from Rome? I can't help thinking often of my little house there; 
much in my present living resembles it, and there is always more 
to recognize again, now that spring is growing. It seems to me I 
am seeing many things a little better and more maturely and more 
justly than that time in Rome, and as if the years had come with 
things that have worked on me. Although there is no end to the 
unfinished places about me; indeed, there seem to be more and 
more of them. But it is comprehensible of course that they are 
becoming clearer, the more separate spots here and there come 
to a modele. And patience and patience, I keep saying to myself t 
saying it more confidently and more modestly than ever before. 


And if I stop saying it, there are now always enough things on 
hand persuading me with that same word. 

It is remarkable how far just what we imagined and planned 
on a walk together in Friedelhausen when we needed comfort- 
ing, is now really coming to fulfillment: that I would see Greece. 
For no landscape can be more Greek, no sea more filled with the 
expanses of antiquity, than land and sea as it is given me to see 
and experience them on my walks in Anacapri. Here is Greece, 
without the Greek world's works of art, but almost as before they 
came into being. The stony slopes lie up there as if all that were 
yet to come, and as if all the gods too were yet to be born that 
Greece's abundance of horror and beauty called forth. And you 
should hear the kind of language the people speak up there. 1 
have never heard any so ancient on human lips. You ask them the 
name of the region in which you are and they tell you something 
big, powerful, sounding like the name of a king, of a first, early, 
legendary king, and you think you have already divined his 
name before in the storms and in the muffled swell of the heavy 
sea. You see, it has fortunately proved true that there is a world 
up there and much reality. . . . 

C '39 1 

To Clara Rilke Villa Discopoli, Capri 

March 8, 1907 

. . . my letter crossed your beautiful description of those 
evening excursions, of which I received more through the keen- 
ness of your words than you perhaps hoped to include in them 
in the quick jotting down. Your notes are very good and sure 
and positive, and when you read them again here with me, you 
will be surprised to see so much stored up in them. Then a lot 
else, completing and expanding all the rest, will find its way to 
them, and perhaps we can compile from the whole an Egyptian 
journey such as no one has ever been able to make and to tell 
about. Only collect many more impressions; don't think of letters 
that have to give information and be easily understood; keep 


taking in with swift capturing gestures one thing and another: 
something that passes quickly by, glimpses, brief flashing revela- 
tions that last a second in you under the influence of some occur- 
rence; all the unimportant that often becomes significant through 
a passing intensity of our vision or because it happens at a place 
where it is perfected in all its fortuity and perpetually valid and 
of deep import for some personal insight which, appearing in us 
at the same moment, coincides meaningfully with that image. 
Gazing is such a wonderful thing, of which we still know so 
little; with it we are turned completely outward but just when 
we are most so, things seem to be going on in us that have waited 
longingly to be unobserved, and while they, untouched and 
curiously anonymous, achieve themselves in us without us, 
their meaning is growing up in the object outside, a name con- 
vincing, strong, the only one possible for them, in which we 
blissfully and reverently recognize the event within us, though 
we ourselves do not quite reach to it, only quite faintly, quite from 
afar, comprehending it under the sign of some thing, strange a 
moment ago and already next moment newly estranged. It 
often happens to me now that some face affects me like that; in 
the morning, for example, as they begin here now for the most 
part; one has already had lots of sun very early, an abundance of 
brightness, and if then suddenly in the shade of a street a face 
is held out to one, under influence of the contrast one sees its 
character with such distinctness (distinctness of nuance) that 
the momentary impression is spontaneously heightened to the 
symbolic. More than ever I wish for someone here who could 
paint; seriously paint. Just recently again. Picture to yourself: a 
green rectangular field, flat against the curving, deep-blue sea 
beside which it was set, without one's seeing the vertical drop of 
ancient substructions that alone separated one from the other. 
On this field a woman sitting, in rhubarb red and orange, another 
in a faded green going back and forth among the white sheets 
and tablecloths hung out to dry on lines and moved in most varied 
fashion by the wind, now hollow and drawn in, full of translucent 
shadow, now dazzlingly billowed out, ever and again interrupted 

_ 267 

by the distinct blue of the sea and overflowed by the sky con- 
tinually coming down over everything . . . and so forth. 
Wouldn't that give P.B. pleasure? It is a real sin to write it down 
in ink. Why doesn't some painter come and drive the money- 
changers from the temple and do what would be so necessary and 
so natural to do? 

So once more then, make many notes, even if you don't read 
them over (for in reading over one is unjust, and much then 
seems impossible that is plainly necessary), and if you can, make 
drawings of the same sort with all uncompromising directness of 
the instant stroke. All this only as material we will then sift here, 
discussing it and joining the natural breaks. You will see, it will 
fit. Only there must be lots, so that we can really pour it out be- 
fore us and reach into it. The more the better. . . . Write 
only briefly and save up for your notes and sketches. (Looking 
into interiors of houses as into fruit-meat is an experience for me 
from somewhere. From Rome? ) Look, look, look, . . . 

To Clara Rilke [Villa Discopoli, Capri] 

March 11, 1907, Monday 

... I always write it Monday, the "Oceana" letter, and it gets 
to you only the next Sunday, at ten-thirty: so your cards in- 
form me, which I do indeed consider as a letter (the tenth). 
How lovely those cards really are, and again: how well you told 
what they confirm. The avenue up to the Pyramids you evoked 
in me just that way, only with everything the card can't give 
besides, with the luminosity and the movement toward that lu- 
minosity. But the disposition and distribution of the whole had 
arranged itself in me on your indications just as the card now 
gives it. You wish "again and again, to be alone more," you say. 
Yes, how much and in how little considerate a manner I would 
surely wish it if I came back from such expeditions and such 
things and from that market place into the dreary boredom that 
looms under the influence of parlor games. . . . Our upbring- 


ing is probably to blame for our managing social affairs so badly. 
The Heluan people, in so far as they aren't professional sitters- 
about (for of walking there is no question) , have probably learned 
from childhood up to reckon with this excess of social incon- 
veniences as with the unavoidable. That is the canvas on which 
they have worked their embroidery again and again. Whereas I: 
I did indeed really live in the little churchyard corner in the 
school garden, where I was safe from my contemporaries, and in 
the extremely unsocial environment of their ruthlessness, which 
like paper scissors cut one very sharp and clear out of the group 
picture of that unattractive throng. And later it was so again 
and again, and it was the little narrow room in Tante Gabriele's 
apartment, and each time it was a separation and singleness and 
an obligation to accept and somehow come to terms with it. ... 
People, before they had become properly acquainted with work, 
invented distraction as relaxation from and opposite of false 
work. Had they waited, ah, and been long patient, real work 
would have become a little more accessible to them, and they 
would have come to understand that it can as little have an op- 
posite as the world itself has one, or God or any living soul. For 
it is everything, and what is not work neither is nor is anywhere. 
Renan once noted down: "Travailler, a repose." I shall put it as 
motto in the new Rodin volume (which I shall not begin before 
we have talked about Egypt). . . . 

C '*' 3 

To Paula Modersohn-Becker Villa Discopoli, Capri 

March 17, 1907 

I looked forward to your letter more than I can say. ... I 
do think your life has powers, to replace and to retrieve and to 
come to itself at any price. And if outward circumstances turned 
out differently from what we thought in those days, still only 
one thing is decisive: that you bear them courageously and have 
won through to the possibility of finding within the given con- 
ditions all the freedom that in you needs which must not be 


destroyed in order to become the utmost that it can become. 

For solitude is really an inner affair, and the best and most help- 
ful step forward is to realize that and to live accordingly. It is a 
matter, after all, of things that do not lie entirely in our hands, 
and success, which is something so simple in the end, is made up 
of thousands of things, we never fully know of what. 

For the rest, just leave me to my expectation, which is so great 
that it cannot be disappointed. Where one expects something big, 
it is not upon this or that that one counts, one cannot count or 
counsel at all; for it is a matter of the unexpected, the unf orseeable. 
And the slowness of a course could disconcert no one less than 
myself, whose daily experience is of the great units of measure by 
which artistic growth increases. 

It only saddens me that I shall not see you again now; I think 
of getting to Paris soon and remaining there as long as possible. 
But you will already be gone then. This time I shall look for a 
studio and furniture, for it is to be a serious settling down to all 
the work there will be to do. Even the summer, about which you 
ask, I shall probably spend entirely there, in some corner of that 
tremendous solitude for which I am longing. 

Here I have thought much, much of you. Such remarkable 
color experiences are possible here: unprecedented. And again, 
it is all never seen, never made; only that bad painters cover it up 
now and then with their backs : that is all. Still I wouldn't have 
wanted to call you or disturb you. My admiration for Paris is too 
great for that, and my conviction that there one can become every- 
thing, too sincere. And then: even one's whereabouts are more an 
internal than an external question, otherwise real pictures would 
already have had to come into the world here. . . . 

P.S. Clara will soon be able to receive your greetings, when 
she comes through here on the return journey. Her letters are 
beautiful and remarkable. Just as when our grandparents traveled 
and wrote, and a letter was long on the way and contained much 
that was strange and foreign when it finally arrived. Only that 
everything foreign is near to us, because we apprehend it and have 
need of it as expression for things within. 


T0 Ctovf Rilke Villa Discopoli, Capri 

Monday, March 18, 1907. Afternoon 

. . . Thanks for everything you share with me in such a loyal 
way; it seems to me you are handing me the bigger half of it all. 
I gather so much from passages in your letters and from pictures, 
especially from the former, and when everything is added by 
word of mouth, as it arises in our talks, I shall have some sort 
of whole that I can remember and look forward to enjoying. . . . 
And remarkable, to feel this sublimely carried sphinx-head in- 
serted into space with the whole tremendous persevering of its 
existence. Remarkable, so remarkable that that word recovers its 
literal worth for one. Again and again I am forced to think: what a 
world for a section in a new Book of Hours > in and before which to 
let figures rise up in all their size. And how close all that has come 
to me. Even should I not get there for years, how far I have 
already been initiated and am in contact with it all. And when I 
read a chapter in A Thousand and One Nights ... the details 
I know about from you take on a life of their own, get up out of 
their corners, come together and form associations that look or- 
ganic and viable when one heightens the conditions and dimen- 
sions of life to the colossal. The caliphs' graves had already sur- 
prised me on a recent card; but on the one enclosed this time the 
earlier impression is heightened to the incredible. Before I found 
your remarks on the back, I thought of the fruit and fruit-stone 
quality of those plastic cupolas, which are great sculpture, the 
height of plastic art with their nowhere interrupted, nowhere 
weakened or neglected modele. Of them you must tell me much. 
How everything is indeed always one. When a path turns toward 
greatness, how one sees again and again, as one proceeds in that 
direction, everything else one has already known: as though there 
sat together at the end of it a circle of gods, silent, in quiet 
similarity and eternal kinship. 

Your saying that you cannot draw much now, I can under- 
stand. No, how would that be possible with everything, since you 

have your work and have to talk with and adapt yourself to 
everybody. I am not afraid you might bring too little with you. 
When you spread it out here, you will be amazed yourself at 
all there is. And just go on living it quietly and whole and with- 
out limitation. The weeks go so quickly here it is hard to keep 
up with them, and all of a sudden you will be here. But do not 
let yourself be disturbed by what is to come; rather, be in that 
which is still around you and which enters with an immeasurable 
past into the present that is yours. That is why I too am post- 
poning everything I would like to tell you of myself until it can 
be told verbally. Only this much: while Ellen Key was here it 
was half decided that I will be able to go to Paris with the same 
opportunity offered again that I lost and frittered away in the 
fall. So, if everything comes as I think and am with full hope 
planning, I shall go from here directly to Paris and there resume 
my solitude and work again a year later, exactly where it eluded 
me when I went to Belgium. And this time I will hold out and 
not go away again so soon, and bring something to conclusion. I 
have promised the Insel-Verlag a new book of poems in time for 
Christmas (with all the reservations with which that sort of thing 
can be promised), but I would like really to carry it through and 
multiply the beautiful new things until they are a book, the book 
that must come now. That is now my concern and my confident 
hope, and to that my immediate living must adjust and regulate 
itself. . . . 


To Hugo von Hofmannsthal Villa Discopoli, Capri, Italy 

March 21, 1907 
My dear Hofmannsthal, 

You will know how much the approval of my work that your 
letter contains concerns and touches me; I will not stop now to 
assure you of it. I simply want to add that your words came to 
me almost like spoken ones (with all the vibration that can be 
about words) . In the last few days I had been taken up again and 

again with your lecture on the poet and these times , and so 
I was accustomed to your voice and as it were prepared to hear 
it again. 

I have recently been several times on the point of writing you. 
That too you will understand. But for the moment (although the 
impression I received from your fine lecture has strongly concen- 
trated me) I still do not find the inner calm for grateful discus- 
sion. Rather will I, not to keep you waiting, reply to your kind 
and special invitation, accepting, as you can well imagine, en- 
tirely accepting. For in this case all reasons I might otherwise 
have advanced against the publication of lyrical contributions 
in periodicals become invalid, and other decisive ones appear to 
which I yield when I beg you to count absolutely upon my par- 
ticipation. That is, in so far as I have finished things on hand. 

I believe I shall be able to fulfill your wish when I put at your 
disposal shortly (in the course of the next weeks, if it can wait 
that long) two poems of the type of those that Bie published some 
time ago ("The Rosebowl," "Alkestis")- For later on I shall 
prepare single poems out of a cycle the conclusion of which is in 

You see that I am anxious to prove my readiness most sincerely, 
in this case as in any other that may come up. 

Your Rilke 

C *44 3 

To Clara Rilke Capri, Villa Discopoli 

March 25, 1907, Monday afternoon 

. . . once more we are set in the midst of the storms that are 
jostling the spring all the way in among the many people who 
now belong to Capri. Remarkable was the night of the spring 
equinox, a moonlight night with many leaf-shadows being chased 
over the paths (made of white light) . The scent of the wallflowers 
had no rest over its blossoms and suddenly found itself above 
quite different bushes, to which it didn't belong, and all the hard 
trees, prepared for sea wind, became audible again in all their 


hardness as their leaves turned and struck against each other. But 
the wind (one could see) no longer reached so far up into the 
night, it was now only a stream of wind, a road of wind, above 
which, deep and silent, blossoming sky stood motionless, spring 
sky with single, great, open stars . . . The last week of March 
is beginning, and I am sure it will pass quickly, like all the others. 
This last one has left me two more things to report: This year's 
Insel-Almanach, which they are already preparing, will have 
three poems as a sample of the new book, together with a little 
essay on the letters of Marianna Alcof orado, with which I have 
again been having a good deal to do and from which the moving 
figure of the w Portuguese nun seems to me to rise more clearly 
each time, like that of a Spanish madonna almost: so large and 
oppressive and set with stones is the habit of this love, in which 
her yearning face is only one little place. And Hofmannsthal 
wrote me a very, very kind letter, occasioned by the founding 
of a new weekly in which a special and fastidiously arranged lyric 
section will be under his charge; his intention was to tell me this 
and to say he would like to count quite particularly on my col- 
laboration, but you will see in what a kind way he knew how 
to express it. ... 

I am writing only this today, because, on account of the wind 
perhaps, I have something of a headache, with which I never- 
theless have to write a few more things. ... I already feel a 
little the beginning of the end here and sit before the coming 
weeks like one pondering how a whole garment may still be 
squeezed out of a tapering remnant. . . . 

C w3 

To Tora Holmstrdm Villa Discopoli, Capri, Italy 

March 29, 1907 

Dear Fraulein Tora Holmstrom: I naturally rejoice from my 
heart for you, that you are going to Paris and could think of 
taking up your work there. I am only worried that you may want 
to take it upon yourself with too great energy and vehemence, 


together with all the tremendous thing that Paris is: for one 
doesn't know that till later: that Paris is itself a task, a very great, 
a well-nigh exhausting task, which one accomplishes without 
noticing it. The claim that city makes on one is immeasurable 
and uninterrupted. (I am grateful to it for the best I have been 
able to do heretofore.) That is why it doesn't help one imme- 
diately and directly in artistic activity, doesn't at first, as it were, 
affect the work one does, but it transforms, heightens, and de- 
velops one continually, it gently takes from one's hand the tools 
one has been using and replaces them with others, indescribably 
finer and more precise, and does a thousand unexpected things 
with one, like a fairy who delights in seeing a creature take on all 
shapes the possibilities of which are hidden within it. When one 
has Paris around one for the first time, one must let it act more 
like a bath, without trying to do too much about it oneself: save 
to feel and let it happen to one. . . . 

C *tf 3 

To Clara Rilke Villa Discopoli, Capri 

April 8, 1907 (Monday) 

... it is remarkable how spring still keeps us waiting here; 
or actually, it isn't keeping us waiting; it has begun, but it is like 
the opening of a show: nothing has been finished. One goes from 
exhibit to exhibit across the worst holes and amid great disorder. 
(How this southern spring display always forces such compari- 
sons upon one.) Freezing has still not been discarded and only 
once was the morning such that bird voices woke me: the starting 
in of a nightingale, who here likes best to try her skill in the early 
hours, as though she weren't determined, as with us, to keep 
vigil for her longing's sake, but at most to get up somewhat 
earlier than the others. Of course everything is blooming most 
recklessly: if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an 
unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night. But in spite of 
the days with much rain, the air keeps letting the scent fall as 
if its hands were still too cold for it. Most spacious of all are the 


starry nights that blossom out moonless in the dark and scatter 
shooting stars out of sheer exuberance: some that fall quickly 
and suddenly and, as if they were falling into water, unexpectedly 
go out; burning ones that spring out of a star and, as if they had 
gauged their spring, into another star, and quiet ones that soar in 
a flat arc obliquely through the sky like birds with outspread 
wings, emerging between two stars, vanishing between two 
others, as if these skies were only something to pass through 
not to stay in. Thus we saw it yesterday evening from the bal- 
cony of the studio and good Frau Nonna was quite moved to 
have all the magnificence before her departure. . . . She is 
genuinely fond of us and we are all asked, Ruth too, to settle 
down sometime for a while in great-grandfather's pavilion in 

... If the Monday letters are really still not reaching you 
until the next Saturday (that would be the fourteenth), this 
will be the last to find you in Heluan. It wishes you a good fare- 
well, unhurried like the closing of a book which one has finished 
alone in the night and which, in laying the cover over the last 
page, one seems for a second to encompass in an indescribably 
broadened feeling. . . . 

C '47 3 

To Ernst Norlind [Capri, 1907] 

... I can understand your desire, better than anyone. Have I 
not sometimes attempted Russian poems at moments when an 
inner experience seemed able to clarify itself only in that form. 
And I am still from time to time compelled to write certain 
things in French to be able to bring them to form at all. But in so 
doing I have also come to the realization that one must not yield 
too much to this urge, rather one must keep applying one's 
powers to finding everything in one's own language, to saying: 
everything with it: for this, to which we are related even deep 
into our unconscious, and only this, can in the end, if we take 
pains with it, give us the opportunity of delineating with it, very 

precisely and exactly and definitely, even to the echo of every 
echo, the ultimate validity of our experience. The material of 
the writer is no more yielding than that of any other art and 
no easier to encompass! You won't believe how much I still 
feel in German like a beginner who is very far from reaching 
surely and resolutely for the words which each time are the 
only right ones. My experience and knowledge in this connection 
are too clear and basic to let me withhold them from you at the 
moment when you write of your hope and intention to publish 
sometime in German. The attraction a "great cultural language" 
has for you will also fall away when you consider how accessible 
the great thoughts of all languages have become to us, and how 
Swedish especially has been able to draw attention to itself when- 
ever your poets have grown out beyond national significance. 
And it has often seemed to me that something great has only to 
be thought in order to exist indestructibly! Feeling like this, there 
is no sense in choosing a language because it is widespread; much 
rather should it be our task to reach the ultimate in clarity in that 
which one has. (If you knew furthermore what small prospect 
one has just now of finding among readers of German people 
who understand when one tries to write in this language of the 
great final things, of the most important, the ultimate, the most 
profound you would not wish to grow into this language! 
I say this quite without bitterness; for works of art can wait: in- 
deed, they do nothing but that and do it passionately .) 

About your new books, of which through Ellen Key I hear 
such very good things quoted Bonnier's opinion namely , I am 
heartily glad, dear friend. It is only too bad: Danish I read fairly 
easily, as I tried out just recently (Helge Rode's new drama 
Morbus Tellermanri), while I can adjust myself less easily to 
Swedish. Nevertheless I shall naturally make an effort to read 
you, and all the inexpressible that passes back and forth between 
us will certainly help me here and there to grasp something by 
feeling and intuitive groping. 

Besides your kind letter I have also to thank you now for what 
you sent: the lithograph and the photograph of your new picture. 


In both I find the landscape and arrangement of space extraor- 
dinarily fine and successful; the birds aren't so convincing at first 
glance. I have the feeling that you often spoil your real knowledge 
of form and movement by a too conscious attempt at stylization. 
The mood emanating from these pictures is certainly very strong 
in spite of this, but the effect it spontaneously produces on one is 
again and again interrupted by a certain surprise at the bird-forms, 
which do not evoke movement along with their gesture. But 
without qualification I admire your more and more energetic 
mastery of space, executed with ever simpler means. . . . 

C *4* 3 

To Gudrun Baroness Uexkiill Villa Discopoli, Capri 

April 15, 1907 

. , . I have behind me a daily task I was fond of, a translation 
of the forty-four beautiful Sonnets fro?n the Portuguese of Eliza- 
beth Barrett Browning, the carrying out of which I owe to my 
hostess here. Someday a little book will come of them, and I look 
forward quite particularly to laying it in your hands! These Eng- 
lish love sonnets are of a perfection and precision of expression: 
crystals of feeling they are: so clear, so ordered, so transparently 
mysterious, and grown up in such a deep untroubled place. And 
it was somehow possible for me to let the German version take 
shape in similar depths, so that the translation pleases me, the 
way it has succeeded. . . . 

C *49 3 

To Karl von der Heydt Villa Discopoli, Capri 

May 3, 1907 

. . . Perhaps it will amuse you that ... I have seen Gorky. 
One evening I sat up there in his house about a round table. The 
sad lamp shed its light quite evenly, without bringing anyone into 
prominence: on him, his present wife, and a couple of discon- 
solate Russian men who took no notice of me. We managed to 

understand each other first in Russian, of which a certain amount 
returned to me under stress of the moment; later I spoke German 
and Madame Gorky translated. You know my opinion, that the 
revolutionary is the direct antithesis of the Russian: that is, the 
Russian is admirably suited to be one, rather as a cambric hand- 
kerchief is very nice for wiping up ink, provided you completely 
misuse and ruthlessly misjudge its real attributes. Add to this that 
neither can I in any respect imagine the artist, obedient, patient, 
fitted for slow development as he is, among the insurrectionists, 
and you will understand that the preliminary conditions for our 
getting on together were not exactly propitious. And this was in 
general confirmed. He speaks even of art as a democrat, as a dis- 
contented man, narrowly and hastily judging; with judgments 
in which the errors are completely dissolved, so that one cannot 
fish them out. But then he is of a great, moving kindness (of that 
kindness which again and again makes it impossible for Russians 
to remain artists) , and it is very moving to find upon a face quite 
unprepared the traces of very great thoughts and a rare smile 
that breaks out of it laboriously, as though it had a hard, unre- 
sponsive surface to push up through from deep down. Remark- 
able was the atmosphere of nameless, anonymous egalite into 
which one fell as soon as one sat down at the round table. It was 
like some Beyond in which these exiles were lingering, and their 
eyes seemed to be turned back to the earth which is Russia, re- 
turn to which seems so utterly impossible. . . . 

C iw 3 

To Friedrich von Oppeln-Bronikowski Hotel de Russie, Rome. 

En route, May 29, 1907 

... I admire Stefan George's poems, and my having met the 
poet nine years ago in the Boboli Gardens belongs to my most 
cherished memories. 

He spoke at that time against young people publishing too soon 
and too hastily, not without reference to myself; this voice 
counseling patient work that expects nothing from without had 


its effect, together with other earlier voices, and strengthened 
me in an attitude for which I must have had the necessary pre- 
disposition. If you wish to call that an influence, designate it as 

The effect of works of art seems to me in no way measurable. 
Their influence is so much dissolved in memory and experience 
and interwoven with them, that it cannot be presented separately. 
According to my experience, the effect of George's poems, like 
that of other serious works of art, consists in their developing 
one's ability to admire and to work and obligating one absolutely 
to Nature. 

That is all I can say on the subject. . . . 


To Clara Rilke Hotel du Quai Voltaire [Paris] 

Monday, June 3, 1907 

. . . how much seeing and working differ elsewhere; you see, 
and think: Later . Here they are almost the same. You are here 
again: that isn't odd, not remarkable, not startling: it isn't even a 
celebration; for even a celebration would be an interruption. But 
here this takes you and goes on with you and goes with you 
toward everything and right through everything, through the 
small and the great. Everything that was arranges itself differ- 
ently, falls into line, as if someone stood there giving orders; and 
what is present is in all fervency present, as if it were on its knees 
and praying for you. I have already lived a long life here since 
Friday morning and countless memories. You can imagine. On 
Saturday (June i ) I took my first Turkish bath with complete 
enjoyment and without any discomfort. It was glorious to sit in 
the good warmth, for which I was of course prepared by our 
warmth down there. I even wished there were some of it outside 
the bathhouse; the green is far along here, but the air changeable, 
cold in spots when it moves, and where it is still, insipidly warm, 
so that one feels mistreated by it and by the dreadful sharp dust 
one of those sudden snatches of wind tosses up; I have never found 

that so bothersome as this time; (am I especially sensitive to it 
after all the sea air?) But what is that to the principal thing. The 
way everything is here again, reality right into the smallest part. 
You go somewhere and simply are happy and feel in the mood, 
and your tasks go on before you with their delicate, winged feet 
and linger a little and are not at all unattainable, only very 
proud. Yesterday I was in Notre Dame and heard again the sing- 
ing that streams into that wonderful mold and everywhere takes 
on its interior shape.' Spent a curious hour this afternoon in the 
Carriere exhibition. ... It really is singular, this work, and not 
at all as though one might soon shake it off. Dora has looked at 
studios for me that are listed at Colarossi's as "furnished": but the 
dirt that goes with them each time is insuperable. And I do have 
a horror of settling an empty studio and of time and money going 
in the process. So it will probably again be rue Cassette. . . . 
And that will be an upper room, the one right above Paula 
Becker's, that looks on the little church through the chestnuts of 
the convent garden: that I look forward to. And then? Last year 
cannot come again, though much chimes in so similarly: but it will 
after all be a quite new one, and to that too I look forward. Today 
I saw Mathilde Vollmoeller at Jouven's; she was as always simple 
and sympathetic. And everything leaves one so gloriously in 
peace. . . . 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

Friday afternoon [June 7, 1907] 

. . . Here I have already been to many places again. Tuesday 
in the little Bagatelle Palace where there is an exhibition of 
women's portraits from 1870 to 1900. A wonderful Manet re- 
wards one superabundantly for all the rest. That is a painter; he 
is beginning to open up to me all over again after this portrait and 
after the incredible "Dejeuner sur Pherbe" that I saw today in the 
Louvre in the newly installed Moreau-Nelaton collection. That 
is a painter, still, and again and again and all the more. Carriere 

_ _ 28l 


was wrong after all and Van Gogh is something else, something 
inexorably obsessed with expression that bends painting to its 
will. With him the never before painted came in, but with Manet 
everything paintable. (That sounds strange; for by the meaning 
of painting everything actually must be paintable; yes, but it 
isn't yet, and Van Gogh wanted it to be, to be, to be.) At Bern- 
heim jeune, I saw Van Goghs: a night cafe, late, dreary, as if one 
were seeing it with sleepless eyes. The way he has made the old 
lamplit air (by drawing circles concentrically about the hanging 
lamps, which seem gradually to dissolve in the room), is far 
from being painting any longer, but is forcibly won with colors, 
and it overpowers: one becomes positively old, wilted, and 
drowsily disconsolate before it. There are Maillols there too: 
very, very beautiful ones. The torso of a girl, still in clay (to be 
baked), which is indescribable. And at the same time another 
well-known Japanese collection is shortly being sold at auction 
which one should also see! 

. . . But the difficult, the anxious is somehow still here too 
indeed everything is again: as always in Paris. 

Thank you for the notes written en route. Perhaps you are 
right in many respects. I thought so today at two pictures of 
Berthe Morisot: they were painted for Manet's sake, and Bash- 
kirtseff painted for Bastien-Lepage out of him, for his sake* 
What we do for the sake of God, do women always do for a man? 
But the human and the divine are equally unattainable: so their 
task could for that reason still become broad and personal and 
their own? And now a good Sunday to you. . . . 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

June 13, Thursday evening [1907] 

... a variety of circumstances (unpleasant neighbors in the 
next room and such), which someone else would more easily 
conquer, is responsible for my still not being at home here and 
not taking Paris as it continually offers itself (extravagantly) , 


but probably above all it is because I am not working. . . . Yes, 
the study plan is falling through, item by item, for that will come 
which has to come, and not that which we put on the program; 
let us just take what comes and has a right to come well and 
firmly in hand. And may it come soon, so that there will be no 
pauses. . . . 

I was in the Jardin des Plantes all morning yesterday, looking 
at the gazelles. Gazella Dorcas, Linne. There are two of them 
and a single female besides. They were lying a few feet apart, 
chewing their cuds, resting, gazing. As women gaze out of pic- 
tures, so they gaze out of something with a mute, conclusive 
turn. And when a horse neighed, one of them listened and I saw 
the radiance from ears and horns about her slender head. Were 
the ears of those in Al Hay at just as gray (as tin to gold in rela- 
tion to the tone of the other hair) with a soft, dark, ramified 
marking inside? I only saw one get up for a moment, she lay 
right down again; but I saw, while they stretched and tested 
themselves, the magnificent work of those hind legs: (they are 
like guns out of which leaps are shot) . I couldn't go away at all, 
they were so beautiful, and exactly as I felt before your delicate 
photograph: as though they had only just been changed into 
this shape. . . . 

C '3 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

June 19, 1907 

... I do not know why I am so slow this time in adapting and 
settling in. The neighbors, are not bad, and yet it is again the Paris 
that consumed Make Laurids. A student studying for his exam- 
inations for years. Then just before the tests an ailment mani- 
fests itself: his face becomes troubled over his books, the lines 
dance and one eyelid closes down, simply closes down like a shade 
whose cord is broken. This condition made him nervously misera- 
ble, and then, at the time I moved in, he was going about in his 
room, stamping with every turn and even late into the night, in 

a kind of bleary resentment, throwing things on the floor, some 
kind of tin things made as if for the purpose, which rolled along 
in order to be picked up and thrown down again and again. You 
know one couldn't have provided a more susceptible neighbor 
for this young man. How that kept me engrossed and breathless 
the first nights, before I knew what it meant. Alas: because I at 
once grasped the rhythm in that madness, the weariness in that 
anger, the task, the despair you can imagine. That ate into 
me a little and confirmed and occupied me in my dreadful melan- 
choly. And a person like that, when he is at the end of his powers, 
takes some for himself through the wall. Instinctively, what 
does it matter to him. That is all. And now they are operating 
on his eyelid (the muscular exhaustion of which naturally can- 
not be surgically removed). But it is so in keeping with this 
misery to have the hospital mixing in and the clever gentlemen 
who for a moment are certainly taking an interest in this ob- 
stinate eyelid. Today, I believe, he will be operated on for the 
second time, and then he is supposed to leave soon for home 
somewhere. His mother came at the worst time. To hear her 
step outside, ah, she had no idea how much that step had to stand 
by me too. One had only to hear it outside in the corridor when 
she came and went. One heard: a mother has a sick son heard 
it as if one saw it depicted on ten bas-reliefs in various stages: 
that is how one heard it. ... 


To Julie 

Baroness von Nor deck zur Rabenau 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

June 20, 1907 

... it is a mistake, I know, to live with such self -surrender that 
one is always getting lost in one's surroundings of the moment. 
This mistake would be more pardonable if I were already in a 
position to utilize it wholly for my art; but even that I do not as 
yet understand, and so only long and cumbersome acclimatizations 
come out of it, periods of transition that remove me forcibly from 


my fellows, without permitting me even a tangible connection 
with the next new thing. I am in the midst of such days. For Paris, 
which I admire so much and which I know I must go through as 
one goes through a school, is something continually new, and 
when it gives one the feeling of its greatness, its almost limitless- 
ness, that is when it becomes really ruthless and so completely 
annihilates one that one must quite diffidently start in all over 
again with an ardent attempt at living. Now Italy is already so 
far off, Capri with its good, even, sheltered days, with the house 
about everything that one did and thought and dreamed, so that 
doing and thinking and dreaming became something mild and 
almost noiseless and Naples, the glorious city, princely in its 
layout: as if gifts had been set out along that bay, mountains of 
gifts for a king whose ship, the most dazzling in a retinue of ships, 
may appear shimmering out there at any moment , all that is 
already far away. ... 

n 'j* 3 

To Clara Rilkc 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

June 21, 1907 

... I still owe you the explanation of what I meant by God 
himself having taken it into his hands to teach me economy. 
(Alas, he underestimates the difficulty in any case.) But see how 
he began it. It started in Naples. We were riding with Tante Alia 
and the Countess to the museum; I sat behind you and was on 
the point of paying with one lira (the fare for four people) in 
my hand and a ten centesimi piece which I wanted to put with 
it and give away too. My neighbor became interested in my hand 
and did not let it out of his sight; when the conductor appeared 
over at the edge of the bench, he took my lira with perfect calm 
and made me put away the two soldi, while he gave me to under- 
stand that it cost four times twenty-five and basta. A porter on 
the journey functioned similarly when I, in some desperation over 
the emigrants, was in the process of paying goodness knows what 
extra for goodness knows what transportation, and he simply 

fetched me back from the office (after he had patiently observed 
my intentions for a while) and sat me down in second class under 
my baggage, with sharply bent legs, as is proper. That was clear. 
And I have taken it to heart. I have crossed out everything, i . car- 
riages, 2. tea drinking, 3. buying books (alas), and still it is more 
difficult than ever. Why? What a stupid clumsy person I am; all 
the others about me can and could do it, even Mile, de Lespinasse t 
when the Count de Guibert complained to her of certain wor- 
ries, answered: "Paris est le lieu du monde ou Ton peut etre pauvre 
avec le moins de privations: il n'y a que les ennuyeux et les sots 
qui ont besoin d'etre riches." That too is clear. And nevertheless 
I have done a*lot of calculating again these last days, and haven't 
arrived at understanding how it will turn out. For the present, 
it seems to me, I can neither stay here nor travel, but if I can 
just work: wouldn't that after all be the solution? 

If only one of us had a little of the practicality and shrewd- 
ness that money develops in those who know how to handle it. 
Ruth? Ah, better she should have the health and the security and 
the inner gayety which for sheer innate wealth feels no want, 
what with so much deciding and doing. . . . 

c >m 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

Monday, June 24, 1907 

. . . this morning [came] your long letter, with all your 
thoughts. . . . Works of art are indeed always products of 
having-been-in-danger, of having-gone-to-the-very-end in an 
experience, to where no man can go further. The further one 
goes, the more one's own, the more personal, the more unique 
an experience becomes, and the work of art, finally, is the neces- 
sary, irrepressible, most valid possible expression of this unique- 
ness. . . . Herein lies the tremendous help of the work of art for 
the life of the person who must make it: that it is his rallying 
of strength; the knot in the rosary at which his life speaks a 
prayer, the ever-recurrent proof of his unity and trueness, but 


directed only toward himself and to the outer world working 
anonymously, unnamed, as necessity only, as reality, existence . 
We surely have no choice then but to test and try ourselves out 
to the extreme, but also we are probably bound not to express, 
to part, to impart this extreme before it enters into the work of 
art: for as something unique that no one else would or should 
understand, as personal insanity so to speak, it has to enter into 
the work in order to become valid there and to show the law, 
like an inherent design which becomes visible only in the trans- 
parency of the artistic sphere. Two freedoms of communica- 
tion there are, nevertheless, and they seem to me the utmost of 
what is possible: the one face to face with the thing completed 
and the one within our daily life itself, in which we show each 
other what we have become through our work and thereby mu- 
tually support and help and (in the humblest sense of the word) 
admire each other. But in the one case as in the other one must 
show one another results, and it is no lack of trust, no missing 
something in each other, and no excluding, if one does not dis- 
play the instruments of development, which have in them so 
much that is bewildering, distressing, and only in its personal 
application valid. I so often think how insane it would have been, 
how destructive for him, if Van Gogh had had to share the 
uniqueness of his vision with anyone, had had to examine the 
motives with someone before he made his pictures out of them, 
those existences that justify him with their whole soul, that an- 
swer for him, that swear to his reality. In letters he probably some- 
times thought that he needed this (although there too, he is treat- 
ing largely of things already done), but scarcely had Gauguin 
appeared, the longed-for companion, the likeminded friend be- 
fore he had to cut off his ears in desperation, after they had both 
previously resolved to hate each other and at a good opportunity 
to send each other out of this world. But that is only one thing: 
felt from artist to artist. The woman and her share are something 
else. And a third thing (but thinkable as a task only for later 
years), the complication of the woman being an artist. Ah, that 

_ 287 

is an entirely new question, and thoughts bite at one on all sides 
if one takes only a few steps into it. On that I shall write no more 
today my relationship to my "models" is certainly still false, espe- 
cially as I really can't use any human models at all yet (the proof: 
I am not making any yet) and shall be occupied with flowers, ani- 
mals, and landscapes for years to come. (The opening scene of 
"Alkestis" is perhaps my first reach into the world of "figures".) 
You see ... I am writing hurriedly in order to have time for 
other things. You will not misunderstand the haste in my hand- 
writing: the content is not so hurried and neither is that which 
prompts me to write. I quite obstinately go on asking for some- 
thing about the Rodin conversation; I don't know why I think 
that it would be valuable for me to have a little share in it. ... 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

June 26, Wednesday [1907] 

. . . How will it be sometime with Rodin? It is too much to 
write about it now, it leads too far in all directions. Also it is not 
time for it yet. It pains me not to be able simply to go out to see a 
few things again and Rodin himself. Naturally even I understand 
something of those objections. And yet something is not right 
about them; this whole emphasis that turns against what is 
literary and literature-ish in other arts is itself literature and 
emanates from litterateurs. That is suspicious; I would rather hear 
a plain craftsman, of Maillol's simplicity for instance, taking Rodin 
to task. And didn't I have with him the very experience for which 
you prepared me years ago: that of the immaterial, the uninten- 
tionally formed "like the worm that makes its way in the dark 
from place to place -- "? in a word: of the modele? And couldn't 
you think him so calm and confident in Egypt before those tre- 
mendous things? But no, if I go on writing now, I must go up to 
the stars and down to the bottom of the sea and can leave nothing 
unpacified: for then what is left out? Till later. 

288 _ 

Today there is a banquet in honor of Diriks (do you remember 
the Norwegian painter whom we always thought so congenial, 
to look at; in celebration of his being decorated with the Legion 
of Honor). By chance I received an invitation; I might almost 
have gone, but Rodin will be there, and what according to my 
whole feeling would have been an urgent reason for being there 
becomes through the circumstances just as decisive a one for 
staying away. Strange. Life takes pride in not appearing un- 
complicated. With simplicity it would probably not bring us 
to all those things to which we are not easily brought. . . . 

Today I sent you "registered" something unexpected. My new 
book. In recent days I have been copying and putting together 
like the girl "who still doesn't know what will come out of it 
all." And it almost seems to hold and bear itself and be a book? 
It is to remain in your care until we send it to the Insel. . . . 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI- 

June 28, 1907 

... I must still keep my head somewhat clear as long as 
the second part of my Rodin book is not written. In this, 
certain shifts in point of view may as yet play no part; they would 
destroy much that was of a simple order, and still not be familiar 
enough to me yet to allow of a new, equally clear and, in the 
deepest sense, right relationship of insights. Naturally this second 
part will be the present lecture, hardly or not at all changed 
for it is by no means the moment to say anything new about Rodin 
now. But I must simply be allowed to let the lecture stand in its 
entirety still while I am preparing it for publication. I can still 
understand it fully, it seems to me, although I am already be- 
ginning to see too that many of its perceptions belong perhaps to 
the demands Rodin taught us to make, not to those w^ich his 
work realizes in each case. But I know nothing of that as yet, 
and that Rodin does not "think," but rather remains within his 


work, within the attainable, that was just what we felt to be his 
advantage, his humble, patient road into reality: and I still have 
no other belief to put in place of this belief. One can only remain 
in the "realized" in art, and by reason of remaining in it, it 
grows and continually leads out beyond one. The "final intui- 
tions and insights" draw near only to him who is and remains 
in his work, I believe, and he who considers them from afar ac- 
quires no power over them. But all that belongs so much already 
in the sphere of personal solutions. At bottom it does not co^n- 
cern us how someone manages to grow, if only he grows and if 
only we are on the track of the law of our own growth. . . 1 

c '^3 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

last day of June, Sunday [1907] 

What a rain; is it like this with you too, today, Sunday . . . ? 
I don't know, I had no intention whatsoever of going out, and 
yet I stand at the window and act as if the bad weather had kept 
me from something. Over there in the convent church behind 
the tall chestnuts they are singing to the organ, and from time to 
time one feels the rising of tones right through the noise of the 
falling, which makes the whole afternoon into a single long hour 
that heeds no stroke of the clock and simply lasts on and on, as 
in childhood sometimes the afternoons one spends reading, one's 
head between one's two fists. . . . 

n iti 3 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

July 9, 1907 (Tuesday) 

. . . Just think, here in the Luxembourg, back of the museum, 
in front of the ball-game courts, an enormous bed of low-growing 
roses has been laid out, with paths inside on which one unfortu- 
nately cannot walk; by each rose stands its name, and a few days 


ago I read on one of the tablets: Baronne Louise d'Uexkiill. Who 
could that have been? 

But the most beautiful is the La France bed, the floor of which 
is sometimes all covered with fallen petals; a bed like that I would 
like to have sometime, when I am old, and sit before it and make 
it, of words in which everything is that I then know. . . . 

C ,62 n 

Td Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

July 12, Friday morning [1907] 

. . . Don't worry about the laboriousness of my work: it is 
naturally bound up with the unusual circumstances which do not 
allow one simply to go out, to see, to hear . But I have indeed 
had more time than anyone to see, to hear, to be outside. . . . 
Only I have forgotten much, and all my memories, which were 
so suddenly broken off one day, have got a crack; it goes right 
across them. All that makes this occupation somehow distressing. 
To postpone, however, would be of no use; that only makes it 
worse. And I have promised myself to work off all my arrears 
one after the other. It is the great quantity of what is not done 
that lies with all its weight on what wants to come out of the 
soil. So do not worry. Everything that is work is good and is 
justified, is even justified in being difficult. . . . 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

August 9, 1907 

... A thousand thanks for your trouble over the new book. 
It is as you say: as soon as I see it in print, I shall go over several 
things once more from a disinterested distance, and shall still 
substitute for "Gazelle" and "Marionette Theater" other, less 
dubious things. It is a book: work, the transition from the inspira- 
tion that comes to that which is summoned and held fast. What 
shall we call it? . . . 

fQCf. . , , a 0* , ~" f -// //** 

/ y \J f lt\S <*b>i\JL ^(/LA^\^^<^Pl^^ JCfl/if+ I4st*4? Ws&4>/6t~< 

I I G . n >!/ 1 d .^ .. 4 .,-,-. -^ l 


fc/-%. x /L^> V> x/* ^>t.< /^ IA*V /H/V * jl J 9 


/u^J^u^ } 



' A 

V ^ /) ^ 

Baroness von Nordeck zur Rabenau 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

August 10, 1907 

. . . Time passes so quickly, and I have long ago given up 
running a race with it. More and more (and to my joy) I am liv- 
ing the existence of the seed in the fruit which disposes every- 
thing it has round about it and outward from itself in the dark- 
ness of its working. And more and more I see it is my only way 
out to live thus; otherwise I cannot transform the sourness around 
me into the sweetness that I owe to God from eternity. In a 
word: I stand army standing desk and nothing else. . . . 

To Dr. Martin Zickel 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

August 27, 1907 
My dear Doctor, 

in order not to have made you all the trouble for nothing, I agree 
to divide the evening as you propose in your last letter; on the 
assumption of course that the fee remains as agreed upon (350 
mks. including traveling expenses) and that, should Baron von 
Gleichen-Russwurm not take over the remainder of the evening, 
you will inform me whom you have invited in his stead. 

It naturally interests me very much to get word through you 
of the way Daily Life went (against which much can be said and 
actually is said). Since I never read criticisms and no newspapers 
at all, I thus learned of that Breslau performance for the first 
time, riot without a feeling of gratefulness for your friendly at- 

I now await word from you, my dear Doctor, whether the 
matter may be considered settled and whether we can keep to 
November 5. 

With high regard 

the greetings of: 

Rainer Maria Rilke 

2 9 2 

T0 C7tfra Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

August 30, 1907 

... it was on this day or on the last of August five years ago 
that I first arrived in Paris. I still recall exactly my arrival, the 
drive from the Gare du Nord to rue Toullier, the arrival there, 
strange and frightening right at the first moment and yet full of 
expectation and promise and necessity to the smallest detail. I 
ordered coffee, was astonished, I still recall, at the big spoon one 
got with it went out across the Boulevard Saint-Michel, 
obliquely across it to the little post office that no longer exists, by 
the outer side of the Palais, where I telegraphed to you. According 
to my correspondence book, I wrote you then on September 2. 
What can I have written? So that was this Paris, as it is now, 
already post-summer and still pre-autumn Paris. Then I didn't 
really understand how the city had got into this state, this year I 
have seen it coming on; yes, I even feel a little as if I had helped to 
produce it and had myself taken the leaves from the chestnuts that 
are now quite empty. 

. . . Have you read Sabatier's Saint Francis now? It is so long 
ago, I still know only very dimly that it was beautiful and his 
figure to be well felt, something always achieved somehow by the 
French, who know how to arrange the details so much better 
than German scholars, with whom little particulars are always 
left piled up on top of each other. I am now going almost every 
morning to the Bibliotheque Nationale, more for reference than 
for reading. Thus there came into my hands a few days ago 
translations of wonderfully beautiful Chinese poems of Li Tai Po 
and others. What poets those were. They make a sign, and things 
come and go; one feels them after a millennium through the late, 
foreign language: how light it was, how it came and went, what 
they evoked; and how all heaviness passed into the weightless, 
there to endure. . . . 

2 93 

C ''73 

T0 Erwrt Ludivig Schellenberg 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

September 2, 1907 

... It is very kind of you to meet my silence with so much 
consideration in spite of the fact that it must seem very strange 
and unfriendly to you. The chief reason lies in a correspondence 
that far exceeds my powers; but this does not excuse me. And per- 
haps it cannot even exonerate me if I candidly admit that the an- 
swering of your letters was put off and could finally pass into 
oblivion, because all literary evaluation and discussion that my 
works provoke are very remote from me. 

You show me so much good will that I owe you at least a few 
words on that subject. You have to do here with a personal feel- 
ing, a weakness, if you will, which, in admitting, I do not mean 
in any way to justify. I am wrpng, perhaps, but I never read any- 
thing concerning my work. I did indeed do so years ago as a very 
young man, when I didn't yet know any better and was curious. 
Now the close relationship which I have with my work prevents 
me from ever again looking at a criticism. / must be alone 
<with my work, and I have as little need of hearing others speak 
about it as, for instance, one would wish to see in print and to col- 
lect the opinions of others on the woman one loves. The correct 
as well as the incorrect comments some critic is able to make get 
between me and the work, are foreign bodies, and were it possible 
to assimilate them, it would seem to me a poor way out; for then 
what is expressed in them would always expel and replace the 
unconscious element in that very intimate and inward relationship 
which with such reticence and mystery binds the worker to his 
work, to its past and to the future waiting in it. This unconscious 
element in one's working and in the continuation of one's own 
path (which must not be lost) is endangered by every criticism (to 
my way of feeling), and it is doubtless due to my own propensities 
that I (personally) feel that criticism is a letter to the public which 
the author, since it is not directed to him, does not have to open 
and read. 

*94 _ 

Do not understand that by this I mean to say anything general; 
what I say applies only to myself, who am under discussion here 
since you wished it so. 

Forgive me then if I make no exception even for your little 
book and place it unread among my books. Your very favorable 
disposition toward me I know from your letter which I had the 
pleasure of reading; for however alien and not pertinent to me 
much criticism addressed to the outside world may seem, still 1 
know nothing kinder and more helpful than an expression of ap- 
preciation directed to me, meant only for me, which, when it 
falls to my share, I accept with my whole heart and hold in honor. 
And in thanking you for it especially, I am also thanking you for 
the little book that grew out of your occupation with my work. 
In going out, it assuredly does much for me; feel that I am not 
overlooking or underrating that; on the contrary, I know very 
well how great the influence of a convinced voice can be. I rank 
criticism very high; the only qualification being that where it 
concerns my work I can, in consequence of a certain inner organi- 
zation, have no connection with it whatever. 

I am writing in haste, and do not know whether I am compre- 
hensible; but I wanted very much to be so, at least enough for you 
not to think me moody or ungrateful. 

To Paul Zecb 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

September 12, 1907 

. . . why should we not talk any more about it? I carried the 
article around with me a long time, read this expression and that 
sentence over again, and in so doing considered how dangerously 
close you have sometimes come. The unerring recognition of my 
metamorphoses through your eyes would at other times perhaps 
have disconcerted me; for I do not know whether there was ever 
enough brightness of day in my consciousness for me to live with 
things (of which you stated that they were corporeal) in a neigh- 
borhood as aware as though they were within me. Sometimes 

(this I often experience) they have gone in a feeling of dream 
through my restlessness and were weary of long wandering and 
sought a leafy hill: to linger beneath it. Furthermore one cannot 
always lay hold of the experience on all sides and feel out whether 
it may fit into the vessel of our body. We experience many things 
and the ups and downs of what happens with them beyond the real 
day. And it would be unbearable to live that way if the noisy and 
industrious day lay always at our door. You, to whom the weight 
of reality is closer by how many degrees than I feel it: desire that 
all glass shall be transparent. And of that I would not disapprove; 
yet is not the misted distance built infinitely further out into eter- 
nity? Still I would be able to fill out many of your questions. But 
since you also promised me that we shall meet on November 5, 
the living word had better help us over any contradictions. Or do 
you believe: that here too physical proximity would create that 
confusion which makes the meaning of the real unreal? 
Write me a line about it. ... 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

September 13, 1907 (Friday) 

. . . never has heather so touched and almost thrilled me as 
recently, when I found those three twigs in your sweet letter. 
Since then they have been lying in my Book of Pictures and have 
permeated it with their strong stern odor, which is really only the 
scent of autumn earth. How glorious it is, though, that fragrance. 
Never, it seems to me, can the earth be thus inhaled in a single 
smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that means no less than the smell 
of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more than honey- 
sweet where one feels it must be impinging on the beginnings of 
tone. Containing depth within it, darkness, the grave almost, and 
yet again wind too; tar and turpentine and Ceylon tea. Serious 
and shabby like the smell of a begging friar and yet again resinous 
and hearty like costly frankincense. And to behold: like embroi- 
dery, gorgeous; like three cypresses embroidered into a Persian 


rug with violet silk (a violet as vehemently moist as if it were the 
complementary color of the sun). You ought to see it. I think the 
little twigs couldn't have been so beautiful yet when you sent 
them off: else you would have said something surprised about 
them. By chance one of them is lying now on the dark blue velvet 
of an old writing box. It is like fireworks; no, just like a Persian 
rug. Are really all, all those millions of branchlets of such wonder- 
ful workmanship? Look at the coloring of the green in which 
there is a little gold, and the sandlewood-warm brown of the little 
stems and the break with its new, fresh, inner scarcely-green. 
Ah, for days now I have been admiring the splendor of these three 
little fragments and am really ashamed that I wasn't happy when I 
was able to walk about in it, in all the profusion. One lives so 
badly because one always comes into the present unready, unfit, 
and distraught for everything. I can think back on no time in my 
life without such reproaches and even greater ones. Only the ten 
days after Ruth's birth, I think, did I live without waste; finding 
reality as indescribable, even to the smallest detail, as it doubtless 
always is. But probably this city summer I have lived through 
has also made me so susceptible to the splendor of those little bits 
of heather coming from the array of the northern year. Not for 
nothing probably has one gone through a room-summer like that, 
where one is lodged in the smallest of those boxes, one of which 
always fits into another, twenty times. And one is in the very 
last, crouching. Heavens: how well I managed last year; seas, 
parks, wood, and woodland meadows: my longing for all that is 
sometimes indescribable. Now, with winter already threatening 
here. Already the misty mornings and evenings are beginning, 
when the sun is only like the place where the sun used to be, and 
when in the parterres all the summer flowers, the dahlias, and great 
gladiolas and the long rows of geraniums scream the contradic- 
tion of their red into the fog. That makes me sad. It brings up 
disconsolate memories, one doesn't know why: as though the 
music of the city summer were ending with a dissonance, in a 
mutiny of all the notes; perhaps only because already once before 


one had looked all this so deep into oneself and interpreted it and 
united it with oneself, yet without ever making it. ... 

To Julie 

Baroness von Nordeck zur Rabenau 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 6 

September 17, 1907 

I really must tell you at last how glad 1 was at the good news 
from your new work. What work could be finer than this which, 
like no other, needs love and absorbs it, love, which in all those 
little, expectant and future hearts is transformed into life, into 
deeds that some day will be there, into resolutions to the good, 
into courage, into patience, into earnest simple reality. Now they 
all press about you, flowers and children, almost with the same 
need, and how ripe and moving must the experience be for you of 
seeing the inner loneliness of many years rewarded through the 
dependence and affection of this environment that has grown to 
be yours. Now you will daily give and give, and the great stores 
of your love will not lessen thereby: for this is the miracle that 
happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, 
the more they possess of that precious nourishing love from which 
flowers and children have their strength and which could help all 
human beings if they would take it without doubting. . . . 

n '?' 3 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

Sunday [September 29, 1907] 

. . . What you felt with the Portuguese grape, I know so well; 
I am experiencing it at the moment with two pomegranates 
I bought recently at Potin's: how magnificent they are in their 
massive heaviness, still with the back-curved ornament of the 
pistil on top; princely in their golden rind, through which red 
underpainting comes through, strong and genuine, as on the 


leather of old Cordovan wall-coverings. I haven't yet tried to open 
them; they are probably not ripe either, for usually, I think, they 
split open easily of themselves over their own fullness and have 
purple-lined slits, like noblemen in full dress. At sight of them, 
desire and anticipation of foreignness and southernness arose in 
me too and the charm of great journeys. But how much one really 
has all that in one beforehand, the more, the tighter one shuts one's 
eyes over oneself. I felt that again when I wrote the Corrida which 
I never saw: how I knew and saw it all! . . . 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris 'VI* 

October 3, 1907 

... if only you were sitting in my room on this cold rainy 
day, which is passing unwillingly and for no one, which now at 
last (as I saw at Jouven's) is filling other people too with surprise 
and perplexity. Sitting with me before the Van Gogh portfolio 
(which I am taking back with a heavy heart). It has done me so 
much good these two days: it was the right moment. . . . You 
probably wouldn't have read at all the little biographical notice 
of at most ten lines that precedes the table of contents, relying 
simply on your looking. It is, nevertheless, very, very factual and 
yet so strangely suggestive to read. Art dealer, and when after 
three years he somehow saw it wasn't that, small school teacher 
in England. And in the midst of it the resolve: to become a clergy- 
man. He comes to Brussels to learn Greek and Latin. But why the 
detour? Aren't there people anywhere who ask neither Greek 
nor Latin of their minister? So he becomes what is called an 
evangelist, and goes into the coal region and tells the people the 
gospel. In telling he begins to draw. And finally he doesn't notice 
at all how he is growing silent and doing nothing any more but 
draw. And from then on he does nothing else, even up to his 
last hour, until he resolves to stop everything, because for weeks 
perhaps he would not be able to paint; so it seems natural to him 
to give up everything, life above all. What a biography. Is it 

_ 299 

really true that all the world acts, now, as though it understood 
this and the pictures that come out of it? Shouldn't art dealers 
and equally so art critics really be more perplexed or more in- 
different about this dear zealot, in whom something of Saint 
Francis too came to life again? I marvel at his swift fyme. Ah, 
how he too had discarded and discarded. His self-portrait in the 
portfolio looks needy and tormented, desperate almost, and yet 
not catastrophic: as when a dog is having a bad time. And holds 
out his face, and one sees, in fact, that he is having a bad time 
day and night. But in his pictures (the arbre fleuri) the poverty 
has already become rich: a great radiance from within. And so 
he sees everything, as a poor man; one need only compare his 
Parks. Those too he says so quietly and simply, as if for poor peo- 
ple, so that they can understand; without going into the showiness 
that lies in the trees; as if even that would indicate partiality. He 
takes no sides, not the side of the parks, and his love for all that 
goes toward the nameless and has thus become hidden by him- 
self. He doesn't show it, he has it. And puts it out of himself 
quickly into his work, into the most inward, unceasing part of the 
work: quickly: and no one has seen it! So one feels him in these 
forty pages: and haven't you after all been beside me a little and 
looking through the portfolio? . . . 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

October 4, 1907 (Friday) 

... it is still as if one were in a wet sponge someone is tossing 
about. What a strange effect it can have, being thus lifted out of 
order! The seasons are usually just so beautiful and helpful 
through continuity and contrast, one can rely on them; but this 
time everything that began was abrupt, as though one suddenly 
turned over in an encyclopedia to another letter and went on 
reading, after something quite different, under Th or Y. 

To be sure, if one were as secure in one's work as one should 
be, that would not disconcert one, even in conjunction with a 


cold: one would simply see and make things out of this state of 
mind. (It was a similar one in Schmargendorf which once made 
me, quite unexpectedly, as I remember, write the "Pages from a 
Stormy Night" in a single evening.) But one is still so far from 
being able always-to-work. Van Gogh could perhaps lose his 
composure, but the work was still behind the composure, he 
couldn't fall out of it any more. And Rodin, when he is unwell, is 
very close to his work, writes beautiful things on countless slips 
of paper, reads Plato and thinks along those lines. But I have a 
feeling that that is not mere discipline and compulsion, to be that 
way with one's work (for then it would tire one, as it has tired 
me these last weeks) ; it is sheer joy; it is the natural well-being in 
this one thing which nothing else equals. Perhaps one must still 
more clearly perceive the "task" one has, more tangible still, 
recognizable in hundreds of details. I do feel what Van Gogh 
must at a certain point have felt, and feel strongly and greatly: 
that everything is still to be done: everything. But I am not good 
at giving myself to what is nearest, or at least only in the best 
moments, while it is just in the worst that one needs it most. Van 
Gogh could make an interieur d'hopital and painted on the most 
dismaying days the most dismaying subjects. How else would he 
have survived. At that one must arrive and, I certainly feel, not by 
compulsion. Out of insight, out of desire, out of inability to post- 
pone, considering all there is to be done. Alas, if only one hadn't 
those memories of not-having-worked that even now do one 
good. Memories of lying still and sensing one's well-being. Memo- 
ries of hours waited through, turning over old illustrations, over 
the reading of some novel : and such memories in heaps way 
back into childhood. Whole regions of life lost, lost even for 
the retelling, through the seduction that can still issue from their 
idleness. If only one had memories of work from early days: how 
firm the ground would be beneath one; one would stand. But 
this way one sinks in somewhere at every moment. This way 
there are two worlds 'within one too, that is the worst of it. Some- 
times I go past little shops, in the rue de Seine perhaps; dealers in 
antiques or little secondhand booksellers or vendors of engrav- 

ings with very, very full windows; no one ever goes in to them, 
they apparently do no business; but one looks in, and they sit 
reading, unconcerned (and yet aren't rich); they are not con- 
cerned for the morrow, don't worry about a success, have a dog 
that sits in front of them, in good humor, or a cat that makes the 
stillness about them still greater, as it prowls along the rows of 
books as though it were wiping the names off the backs. 

Ah, if that were sufficient: I would sometimes like to buy my- 
self a full window like that and to sit behind it with a dog for 
twenty years. In the evening there would be light in the back 
room, in the front everything quite dark, and the three of us 
would sit and eat, back there; I have noticed, seen from the street, 
it always looks like a Last Supper, so big and solemn through the 
dark room. (But this way one has all the worries, the great and 
the small.) . . . You know how I mean that: without complain- 
ing. And it is good this way and will get still better. . . . 

C '743 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

Sunday afternoon [October 6, 1907] 

. . . Noise of rain and striking of hours: it makes a pattern, 
a Sunday one. If one didn't know it: it has to be Sunday. That is 
how it sounds in my silent street. But how much it was Sunday 
in the old aristocratic quarter through which I walked this morn- 
ing. The old closed-up hotels in the Faubourg Saint-Germain with 
their white-gray window shutters, the discreet gardens and courts, 
the grillwork gates screened close behind their bars and the heavy 
well-shutting entrances. A few were very haughty and preten- 
tious and inaccessible. Those must have been the Talleyrands, the 
de la Rochefoucaulds, unapproachable personages. But then came 
an equally silent street with somewhat smaller houses, no less 
dignified in their quality and absolutely aloof. One of the gates 
was in the act of shutting; a manservant in morning livery turned 
back once again and looked at me attentively and thoughtfully. 
And at the same moment it seemed to me that only a trifle need 

have been different at some time, for him to recognize one and 
step back and hold open the door. For an old lady to be up there, 
a grand'mere, who was making it possible to receive her favorite 
grandson even at this early hour. With a smile, herself a little 
affectionate, the confidential lady's maid would take care of it 
and precede one through the draped apartments, inwardly looking 
back and hurrying out of zeal and out of uneasiness at having 
to go ahead. A stranger would understand nothing in thus pass- 
ing through; but one would feel the presence of all those things 
filled with associations: the glance of the portraits, the faces of 
the musical clocks and the contents of the mirrors, in which the 
clear essence of this dusk is preserved. One would have recog- 
nized in a second the light salons that are quite bright within the 
darkness. And the one room that seems darker because the family 
silver at the back has taken all the light to itself. And the solemnity 
of it all would pass over to one and would carefully prepare one 
in advance for the old lady in violet white, whom one cannot 
picture from one time to the next, because there is so much be- 
longing with her. 

I went along through the silent street and was still in my fancies, 
when in the display window of a confiseur in the rue de Bour- 
gogne I saw beautiful old silver. Pitchers with slightly drooping 
full silver flowers on their lids and fantastic reflections in their 
flaring curves. 

Now it is scarcely credible that this should have been the way 
leading to the Salon d'Automne. But I did finally come to the 
gaily colored picture-mart which, much as it strives to impress, 
still did not dispel my inner mood. The old lady held her own, 
and I felt how much beneath her dignity it would be to come and 
see these pictures. I thought whether I mightn't still find some- 
thing I could tell her about, and found a room with pictures by 
Berthe Morisot (Manet's sister-in-law) and a wall with things 
by Eva Gonzales (Manet's pupil). Cezanne simply wouldn't do 
for the old lady; but for us he counts and is moving and impor- 
tant. He too (like Goya) painted the walls of his studio in 

Aix with fantasies (of which there were a few Druet photo- 
graphs). . . 

C '753 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

October 8, 1907 

... it is remarkable, after two days of Salon d'Automne, to 
go through the Louvre: one first notes two things: that every in- 
sight has its parvenus, who, when they have it, become vocal, 
and then, that it is perhaps not so much a question of insights at 
all, which bring up too much consciousness. As if those masters 
in the Louvce had not known that color is what matters in paint- 
ing. I looked at the Venetians: they are indescribably consistent in 
their coloring; one feels how far it goes in Tintoretto. Almost 
further than in Titian. And so until into the eighteenth century, 
where they become wanting only in the use of black, to arrive 
at a Manet scale. Guardi has it, of course; it was unavoidable in 
the midst of the brightness, after the laws against display had 
prescribed black gondolas. But he uses it rather more as a dark 
mirror than as color; Manet first sets it thus on a par with every- 
thing else, emboldened to do so anyhow by the Japanese. Con- 
temporaneously with Guardi and Tiepolo a woman too was paint- 
ing, a Venetian, who came to all the courts and whose reputation 
was one of the most widespread of her day, Rosalba Camera. Wat- 
teau knew of her, and they exchanged a few pastels, their own 
portraits perhaps, and mutually held each other in tender esteem. 
She traveled a great deal, painted in Vienna, and a hundred and 
fifty of her works are still preserved in Dresden. In the Louvre 
are three portraits. A young woman, her face lifted from her 
straight neck and then turned naively to the front, holds against 
her low-necked lace dress a little, clear-eyed, capuchin monkey, 
which below, at the edge of the half-length picture, looks out just 
as eagerly as she does above, only a tiny bit more indifferently. 
With its perfidious little black hands, it is reaching for hers and 
by one of its slender fingers draws the delicate, distraught hand 

into the picture. That is so full of one period, it v is valid for all. 
And is charmingly and lightly painted, but really painted. A blue 
shawl appears in the picture furthermore and a whole white- 
lavender spray of stock which oddly provides the breast orna- 
ment. And seeing the blue, it occurred to me that it is that special 
blue of the eighteenth century which is to be found everywhere, 
in La Tour, in Peronnet, and which, even in Chardin, does not 
cease to be elegant, although there, as the band of his curious cap 
(in the self-portrait with the horn-rimmed glasses), it is already 
used quite regardlessly. (It is conceivable that someone might 
write a monograph about blue; from the thick waxy blue of- the 
Pompeian frescos to Chardin and further to Cezanne: what a life 
story! ) For Cezanne's very peculiar blue has this parentage, comes 
from the blue of the eighteenth century that Chardin divested of 
its pretentiousness and that now, with Cezanne, no longer carries 
with it any secondary significance. Chardin was, on the whole, 
the intermediary; even his fruits are no longer thinking of dinner, 
they lie about on the kitchen table and care nothing for being 
nicely eaten. With Cezanne, they cease entirely to be edible, they 
become such very real things, so simply indestructible in their 
obstinate existing. When one sees Chardin's portraits of himself, 
one thinks he must have been an old eccentric. How much so and 
in what a sad way Cezanne was, I shall tell you tomorrow perhaps. 
I know a few things about his last years when he was old and 
shabby and every day on the way to his studio had children after 
him throwing stones at him as at a bad dog. But within, deep 
within, he was most beautiful, and now and then would furiously 
shout something quite magnificent at one of his rare visitors. You 
can imagine how that would happen. . . . 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

October 9, 1907 

. . . today I wanted to tell you a little about Cezanne. As far 
as work was concerned, he maintained he had lived like a Bo- 

hemian until his fortieth year. Only then, in his acquaintance 
with Pissarro, did the taste for work open up to him. But then so 
much so, that he did nothing but work for the thirty latter years 
of his life. Without joy really, it seems, in continual fury, at 
variance with every single one of his works, none of which 
seemed to him to attain what he considered the most indispensable 
thing. La realisation, he called it, and he found it in the Venetians 
whom he used to see and see again in the Louvre and had uncon- 
ditionally acknowledged. The convincing quality, the becoming 
a thing, the reality heightened into the indestructible through his 
own experience of the object, it was that which seemed to him 
the aim of his innermost work; old, sick, every evening exhausted 
to the point of faintness by the regular daily work (so much so 
that he would often go to bed at six, as it was growing dark, after 
an insensibly eaten supper), ill-tempered, distrustful, laughed at 
every time on the way to his studio, jeered at, mistreated, but 
observing Sunday, hearing Mass and vespers like a child, and very 
politely asking his housekeeper, Madame Bremond, for some- 
what better fare : he still hoped from day to day, perhaps, to 
reach the successful achievement he felt to be the only essential 
thing. In so doing (if one may believe the reporter of all these 
facts, a not very congenial painter who went along for a while 
with everybody),' he had increased the difficulty of his work in 
the most obstinate way. In the case of landscapes or still life, con- 
scientiously persevering before the subject, he nevertheless made 
it his own by extremely complicated detours. Starting with the 
darkest coloring, he covered its depth with a layer of color which 
he carried a little beyond that and so on and on, extending color 
upon color, he gradually came to another contrasting pictorial 
element, with which he then proceeded similarly from a new 
center. I think that in his case the two procedures, of the observant 
and sure taking over and of the appropriation and personal use 
of what he took over, strove against each other, perhaps as a 
result of becoming conscious; that they began to speak at the 
same time, as it were, interrupted each other continually, con- 
stantly fell out. And the old man bore their dissension, ran up and 


down in his studio, which had bad light because the builder 
didn't deem it necessary to listen to the eccentric old man, whom 
they had agreed not to take seriously in Aix. He walked back 
and forth in his studio, where the green apples lay about, or in 
despair seated himself in the garden and sat. And before him lay 
the little city, unsuspecting, with its cathedral; the city for re- 
spectable and modest citizens, while he, as his father, who was a 
hatmaker, had foreseen, had become different; a Bohemian, as 
his father saw it and as he himself believed. This father, knowing 
that Bohemians live and die in misery, had taken it upon himself 
to work for his son, had become a kind of small banker to whom 
("because he was honest," as Cezanne said) people brought their 
money, and Cezanne owed it to his providential care that he had 
enough later to be able to paint in peace. Perhaps he went to the 
funeral of this father; his mother he loved too, but when she was 
buried, he was not there. He was "sur le motif," as he expressed 
it. Work was already so important to him then and tolerated no 
exception, not even that which his piety and simplicity must cer- 
tainly have recommended to him. 

In Paris he gradually became even better known. But for such 
progress as he did not make (which others made and into the 
bargain how ), he had only distrust; too clearly there remained 
in his memory what a misunderstood picture of his destiny and of 
his intent Zola (who knew him from youth and was his com- 
patriot) had sketched of him in Oeuvre. Since then, he was 
closed to writing of all sorts: "travailler sans le souci de personne 
et devenir fort ," he screamed at a visitor. But in the midst of 
eating he stood up, when this person told about Frenhofer, the 
painter whom Balzac, with incredible foresight of coming de- 
velopments, invented in his short story of the Chef cTOeuvre 
inconnu (about which I once told you), and whom he has go 
down to destruction over an impossible task, through the dis- 
covery that there are actually no contours but rather many vi- 
brating transitions , learning this, the old man stands up from 
the table in spite of Madame Bremond, who certainly did not 
favor such irregularities, and, voiceless with excitement, keeps 

pointing his finger distinctly toward himself and showing himself, 
himself, himself, painful as that may have been. It was not Zola 
who understood what the point was; Balzac had sensed long ahead 
that, in painting, something so tremendous can suddenly present 
itself, which no one can handle. 

But the next day he nevertheless began again with his struggle 
for mastery; by six o'clock every morning he got up, went through 
the city to his studio and stayed there until ten; then he came back 
by the same way to eat, ate and was on his way again, often half 
an hour beyond his studio, "sur le motif" in a valley, before which 
the mountain of Sainte Victoire with all its thousands of tasks rose 
up indescribably. There he would sit then for hours, occupied 
with finding and taking in plans (of which, remarkably enough, 
he keeps speaking in exactly the same words as Rodin) . He often 
reminds one of Rodin anyway in his expressions. As when he 
complains about how much his old city is daily being destroyed 
and disfigured. Only that where Rodin's great, self-confident 
equilibrium leads to an objective statement, fury overcomes 
this sick, solitary old man. Evenings on the way home he gets 
angry at some change, arrives in a rage and, when he notices how 
much the anger is exhausting him, promises himself: I will stay 
at home; work, nothing but work. 

From such alterations for the worse in little Aix he then deduces 
in horror how things must be going elsewhere. Once when present 
conditions were under discussion, industry and the like, he broke 
out "with terrible eyes": a va mal . . . C'est eifrayant, la vie! 

Outside, something vaguely terrifying in process of growth; a 
little closer, indifference and scorn, and then suddenly this old 
man in his work, who no longer paints his nudes from anything 
but old drawings he made forty years ago in Paris, knowing that 
Aix would allow him no model. "At my age," he said "I could 
get at best a fifty-year-old, and I know that not even such a person 
is to be found in Aix." So he paints from his old drawings. And 
lays his apples down on bedspreads that Madame Bremond cer- 
tainly misses one day, and puts his wine bottles among them and 
whatever he happens to find. And (like Van Gogh) makes his 


"saints" out of things like that; and compels them, compels them 
to be beautiful, to mean the whole world and all happiness and 
all glory, and doesn't know whether he has brought them to doing 
that for him. And sits in the garden like an old dog, the dog of 
this work which calls him again and beats him and lets him go 
hungry. And yet with it all clings to this incomprehensible master, 
who only on Sunday lets him return to God, as to his first owner, 
for a while. And outside people are saying: "Cezanne," and 
gentlemen in Paris are writing his name with emphasis and proud 
at being well informed . 

I wanted to tell you all this; it is related to so much about us 
and to ourselves in a hundred places. 

Outside it is raining copiously, as usual. Farewell . . . tomor- 
row I will speak again of myself. But you will know how very 
much I have done so today too . . . 

n '773 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

October 12, 1907 

. . . Taking walks is less difficult now than last week. How 
much a little moon like that can do. These are the days in which 
everything is about one, clear, light, scarcely indicated in the 
bright air and yet distinct; even nearby things have the tones of 
distance, are taken away and only shown, not set down as usually, 
and what has relation to space the river, the bridges, the long 
streets and the lavish squares has taken this space to itself, holds 
it to itself, is painted on it as on silk. You will feel what a light- 
green wagon can be then on the Pont Neuf or some red or other 
that cannot contain itself, or a placard simply on the fire-wall 
of a pearl-gray group of houses. Everything is simplified, ar- 
ranged on a few bright real plans, like the face in a Manet portrait. 
And nothing is trivial or superfluous. The bouquinistes along the 
quai open up their cases, and the fresh or faded yellow of the 
books, the violet brown of the bindings, the green of a portfolio: 


everything fits, counts, takes part, and sounds in the unity of the 
bright combinations. 

I recently asked Mathilde Vollmoeller to go through the Salon 
with me sometime, in order to see beside my own an impression 
that I take to be calm and unswayed by literary considerations. 
We were there together yesterday. Cezanne prevented us from 
getting to anything else, I notice more and more what an event 
that is. But imagine my amazement when Fraulein V., trained and 
observing quite as a painter, said: "He sat in front of it like a dog 
and simply looked, without any nervousness or ulterior motive." 
And she said more that was very good about his method of work 
(which one can see from an unfinished picture). "Here," she 
said, pointing to one place, "this he knew, and then he said it (a 
place on an apple) ; close by it is still empty, because he didn't 
yet know it. He did only what he knew, nothing else." "What a 
good conscience he must have," I said. "Oh yes: he was happy, 
way inside somewhere . . ." And then we compared "artistic" 
things, which he may have made in Paris while associating with 
others, with his most individual things, in the matter of color. In 
the first, color was something per se; later he takes it somehow, 
personally, as no human being has yet taken color, only to make 
the thing with it. The color disappears completely in the realiza- 
tion of the thing; no remnant is left. And Fraulein V. expressed 
it very well: "It is as though laid on scales: the thing here, the 
color there; never more, never less than the equilibrium demands. 
That may be much or little, accordingly, but it is exactly what 
the object requires." That last would not have occurred to me; 
but it is eminently right and enlightening as regards the pictures. 
It also struck me very much yesterday how unaffectedly differ- 
ent they are, how little concerned with originality, sure, in every 
approach to thousand-sided Nature, of not losing themselves, 
rather of discovering earnestly and conscientiously her inexhaus- 
tibility through the manifoldness without. All that is very 
beautiful. . . . 

3 io 


T0 C7#r0 Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

October 13, 1907 (Sunday) 

. . . it is raining again in the same way I have already described 
to you so often; as if the sky had glanced up brightly for just an 
instant, only to go right on reading in the even lines of rain. But 
it is not to be so easily forgotten that under the turbid coating is 
that light and that depth which one saw yesterday: now one 
knows it at least. 

I had read about your autumn right away in the morning, and 
I could feel all the colors you had put into the letter changing 
back in me and filling my consciousness to the brim with strength 
and radiance. While I was admiring the distilled clear autumn 
here yesterday, you were going through that other one at home 
that is painted on red wood, as this one here is on silk. And the 
one reaches through to us as well as the other; so deep at the bottom 
of all change are we placed, we most changeable ones, who go 
about with a disposition to understand everything and who make 
of the too great (while we don't really grasp it) the action of our 
hearts, so that it shall not destroy us. If I came up to you two, I 
would assuredly also see anew and differently the pageant of 
moor and heath, the floatingly light green of the meadow strips 
and the birches; indeed this transformation, when I once fully 
experienced and shared it, called forth a part of the Book of Hours; 
but in those days Nature was still a general incitement for me, 
an evocation, an instrument on whose strings my fingers found 
themselves again; I did not yet sit before her; I let myself be 
carried away by the soul that issued forth from her; she came 
over me with her breadth, with her great, exaggerated existence, 
as prophecy came over Saul; just that way. I went along with 
her and saw, saw not Nature, but the faces she inspired in me. 
How little I could have learned then before Cezanne, before 
Van Gogh. From the amount Cezanne gives me to do now, I no- 
tice how very different I have grown. I am on the road to becom- 

ing a worker, on a long road perhaps and probably just at the first 
milestone; but nevertheless I can already comprehend the old man 
who has gone on somewhere far ahead, alone, only with children 
after him who throw stones (as I once described it in the fragment 
on the Lonely) . I went to see his pictures again today; it is re- 
markable what a company they form. Without looking at any 
single one, standing between the two rooms, one feels their pres- 
ence joining in a colossal reality. As if those colors took away 
one's irresolution once and for all. The good conscience of those 
reds, of those blues, their simple truthfulness educates one; and 
if one places oneself among them as ready as possible, they seem 
to do something for one. One also notices better each time how 
necessary it was to go even beyond love; it is of course natural 
for one to love each of these things, when one makes it: but if one 
shows that, one makes it less well; one judges it instead of saying 
it. One ceases to be impartial; and the best, the love, stays outside 
the work, does not go into it, remains unconverted beside it: that 
is how mood-painting arose (which is in no way better than 
subject-painting). One painted: I love this; instead of painting: 
here it is. Whereupon everyone must then look well for himself 
whether I have loved it. That is in no way evident, and many 
will even declare there is no question of love. So without residue is 
it consumed in the act of making. This consuming of love in 
anonymous work, out of which such pure things arise, no one 
perhaps has so fully achieved as this old man; his inner nature, 
which had become mistrustful and sullen, supported him in this. 
He would certainly never again have shown his love to any human 
being, if he had had to love; but with this disposition, which had 
been fully developed through his isolated eccentricity, he now 
turned to Nature too and knew how to repress his love for each 
single apple and to store it in a painted apple forever. Can you 
conceive how that is and how one experiences it through him? 
I have the first proofs from the Insel. In the poems there are in- 
stinctive tendencies toward similar objectivity. I am also letting 
the "Gazelle" stand: it is good. . . . 


C '7*3 

T0 C7tfr0 K/7e 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI e 

October 16, 1907 (Wednesday) 

. . . How human beings do play with everything. How blindly 
they misuse the never observed, never experienced; distracting 
themselves with that which is infinitely collected and which they 
displace. It is not possible that a time, in which aesthetic de- 
mands of this sort somewhere get their satisfaction, should admire 
Cezanne and grasp anything of his devotion and hidden magnifi- 
cence. The dealers make a noise, that is all; and those who have 
need to cling to these things could be counted on two hands, and 
they are aloof and reticent. 

You have only to see, of a Sunday say, the people going 
through the two galleries: amused, irritated to irony, indignant, 
furious. And when it comes to expressing conclusions, they stand 
there, these monsieurs, in the midst of that world, with the 
pathos of despair, and one hears them assert: il n'y a absolument 
rien, rien, rien. And how beautiful the women think themselves 
as they pass by; they recall that they have just seen themselves, 
with complete satisfaction, in the glass doors on entering, and 
conscious of that reflection, they place themselves for a moment, 
without looking at it, beside one of those touching attempts at a 
portrait of Madame Cezanne, so as to exploit the odiousness of 
this painting in a comparison so extremely favorable (as they 
think) to themselves. And someone told the old man in Aix that 
he was "famous." He, however, knew better inside and let them 
talk. But before his things one comes again upon the idea of how 
mistrustful all recognition (with quite isolated, unmistakable ex- 
ceptions) must make one toward one's own work. Actually, if 
it is good one cannot live to see it recognized: or it is only just 
half good and not sufficiently ruthless. . . . 


To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI* 

October 18, 1907 (Friday) 

. . . You must have known, while you were writing, how 
much good that insight of yours would do me which sprang spon- 
taneously from comparing the blue slips with my Cezanne ex- 
periences. What you say now and warmly confirm, I somehow 
suspected, although I could not have indicated how far that de- 
velopment, which corresponds to the immense advance in the 
Cezanne paintings, is already realized in me. I was only convinced 
that it is inner personal reasons that make me more observant 
before pictures which a while ago I would perhaps still have 
passed by with momentary interest, without returning to them 
any more eagerly or expectantly. It is not the painting at all that 
I am studying (for despite everything I am still uncertain about 
pictures and am only with difficulty learning to differentiate good 
from less good ones, and am always confusing the early with the 
late). It is the turning point in this painting that I recognized be- 
cause I had just reached it myself in my work or at least had come 
somehow near to it, probably having been long prepared for this 
one thing, on which so much depends. That is why I must be 
cautious in trying to write about Cezanne, which naturally tempts 
me greatly now. Not the person (I really ought to see that at 
last) who takes in pictures from so private an angle is justified 
in writing about them; one who could quietly confirm them in 
their existence, without experiencing through them more or other 
than facts, would surely be fairest to them. But within my own 
life this unexpected contact, coming and making a place for itself 
as it did, is full of confirmation and pertinence. Another poor man. 
And what progress in poverty since Verlaine (if Verlaine wasn't 
already a relapse), who under "Mon Testament" wrote: Je ne 
donne rien aux pauvres parce que je suis un pauvre moi-meme,. 
and in almost all of whose work this not-giving was, this em- 
bittered displaying of empty hands, for which Cezanne during 
the last thirty years had no time. When should he have shown his 

hands. Malicious glances did often find them, whenever he was 
on his way, and lewdly uncovered their indigence; we, however, 
are given to know from the pictures only how massive and genu- 
ine the work lay in them to the end. This work, which had no 
preferences any more, no inclinations, no fastidious indulgences; 
whose smallest component had been tested on the scales of an 
infinitely sensitive conscience and which with such integrity re- 
duced the existent to its color content that it began, beyond color, 
a new existence, without earlier memories. It is this unlimited 
objectivity, which declines to interfere in any other sphere, that 
makes Cezanne's portraits so outrageous and absurd to people. 
They apprehend, without realizing, that he was reproducing 
apples, onions, and oranges with sheer color (which to them may 
still seem a subordinate device of pictorial practice), but when 
they come to landscape, they miss interpretation, judgment, su- 
periority, and where portraiture is concerned, why, the rumor 
of intellectual conception has been passed on even to the most 
bourgeois, and so successfully that something of the kind is al- 
ready noticeable even in Sunday photographs of engaged couples 
and families. And here Cezanne naturally seems to them quite 
inadequate and not worth discussing at all. He is actually as alone 
in this salon as he was in life, and even the painters, the young 
painters, already pass him by more quickly because they see the 
dealers on his side. . . . 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

October 19, 1907 

You surely remember . . . from the Notebooks of Make 
Laurids the passage that has to do with Baudelaire and with his 
poem: "The Carcass." I could not help thinking that without this 
poem the whole development toward objective expression, which 
we now think we recognize in Cezanne, could not have started; 
it had to be there first in its inexorability. Artistic observation had 
first to have prevailed upon itself far enough to see even in the 

horrible and apparently merely repulsive that which is and which, 
with everything else that is, is valid. The creator is no more al- 
lowed to discriminate than he is to turn away from anything that 
exists: a single denial at any time will force him out of the state 
of grace, make him utterly sinful. Flaubert, retelling with so much 
discretion and care the legend of Saint-Julien-rhospitalier, gave 
it that simple credibility in the midst of the miraculous, because 
the artist in him made the saint's resolves along with him and 
happily assented to them and applauded them. This lying down 
beside the leper and sharing with him all his own warmth, even 
to the heart-warmth of nights of love: this must sometime have 
been in the existence of an artist, as something overcome toward 
his new blessedness. You can imagine how it moves me to read 
that Cezanne in his last years still knew this very poem Baude- 
laire's "Charogne" entirely by heart and recited it word for 
word. Certainly one would find among his earlier works some ia 
which he forcefully won from himself the extreme possibility 
of love. After this devotion begins, first with small things, holi- 
ness: the simple life of a love which has endured, which, without 
ever boasting of it, comes to everything, unaccompanied, un- 
ostentatious, speechless. Real work, abundance of tasks, all begin 
only after this enduring, and he who has been unable to go that 
far will probably get a glimpse in heaven of the Virgin Mary, ai 
few saints and minor prophets, King Saul and Charles le Teme- 
raire : but of Hokusai and Leonardo, of Li Tai Po and Villon, 
of Verhaeren, Rodin, Cezanne and of God himself, they will 
be able even there only to tell him. 

And all at once (and for the first time) I understand the destiny 
of Make Laurids. Isn't it this, that this test surpassed him, that he 
did not stand it in the actual, though of the idea of its necessity 
he was convinced, so much so that he sought it out instinctively 
until it attached itself to him and did not leave him any more? 
The book of Make Laurids, when it is written sometime, will 
be nothing but the book of this insight, demonstrated in one for 
whom it was too tremendous. Yet perhaps he did stand it: for he 
wrote the death of the Chamberlain; but like Raskolnikov he was 

left behind, exhausted by his deed, not continuing to act at the 
moment when action ought just to have begun, so that his newly 
won freedom turned upon him and rent him, defenseless as he was. 

Alas, we count the years and make divisions here and there and 
stop and begin and hesitate between the two. But how very much 
of one piece is what befalls us, in what a relationship one thing 
stands to another, has given birth to itself and grows up and is 
brought up to itself, and we in reality have only to exist, but 
simply, but ardently, as the earth exists, assenting to the years, 
light and dark and altogether in space, not desiring to be at rest 
in anything save in the net of influences and forces in which the 
.stars feel themselves secure. 

Now someday time and peace of mind and patience must also 
be at hand, in order to continue writing the Notebooks of Malte 
Laurids; I know much more about him now, or rather: I shall 
Toiow it when it becomes necessary. . . . 

c '*o 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

October 21, 1907 

. . . But I really wanted to say further about Cezanne: that it 
has never before been so demonstrated to what extent painting 
takes place among the colors themselves, how one must^ leave 
them completely alone so that they may come to terms with each 
other. Their intercourse with one another: that is the whole of 
painting. Whoever interrupts, whoever arranges, whoever lets 
his human deliberation, his wit, his advocacy, his intellectual 
agility deal with them in any way, has already disturbed and 
troubled their performance. The painter (any artist whatever) 
should not become conscious of his insights: without taking the 
way round through his mental processes, his advances, enigmatic 
even to himself, must enter so swiftly into the work that he is 
unable to recognize them at the moment of their transition. For 
him, alas, who watches for them, observes, delays them, for him 

they change like the fine gold in the fairy tale which can no 
longer remain gold because some detail went wrong. That one 
can read Van Gogh's letters so well, that they contain so much 
speaks in fact against him, as it also speaks against him as a painter 
(when set beside Cezanne) that he intended this and that, knew 
it, had found it out; that blue summoned orange and green, red: 
that he, the inquisitive, secretly listening at his eye's interior, had 
heard such news in there. So he painted pictures on a single con- 
tradiction, taking into consideration besides the Japanese simpli- 
fication of color, which sets a plane on the next higher or next 
lower tone, summed up under a collective value; which again 
leads to the drawn and outlined (that is, found) contour of the 
Japanese as a frame for the equalized planes: to sheer design, to 
sheer arbitrariness, in a word, the decorative. Cezanne too was 
brought by the letters of a writing painter, not a real one, that is t 
to express himself in reply on painters' concerns; but when one 
sees the old man's few letters, what an awkward attempt at expres- 
sion, most repugnant to himself, they remain. Almost nothing 
could he say. The sentences with which he tried become long 
and involved, resist, get into knots, and finally, beside himself 
with fury, he lets them be. On the other hand, he succeeds ia 
writing very clearly: "I believe that the best thing is work." Or: 
"I am advancing daily, though very slowly." Or: "I am almost 
seventy years old." Or: "I shall answer you through pictures.'** 
Or: Thumble et colossal Pissarro " (the man who taught him 
to work), or: after some beating about (one feels how relieved, 
and how beautifully written) the signature, unabbreviated: Pictor 
Paul Cezanne. And in the last letter (of September 21, 1905), 
after complaining of his bad health, simply: "Je continue done 
mes etudes." And the wish that was literally fulfilled: "Je me suis- 
jure de mourir en peignant." As in some old Dance of Death 
picture, Death reached from behind for his hand, painting the 
last stroke himself, trembling with pleasure; his shadow had been 
lying a while on the palette and he had had time to choose from 
the open round of colors the one that pleased him best; when its. 

turn came, he would seize the brush and paint . . . there it was: 
he took hold and made his stroke, the only one he knew how to 

To Herr von W. 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI' 

October 21, 1907 

I would gladly take time and quiet to do justice to your con- 
ifidence down to the smallest detail; but when you hear that I am 
just managing to get through the last very busy days before a 
rather long journey, you will look with indulgence on my making 
the answer short. Short, not easy. For it remains difficult in any 
case, whether one determines to say much or little, and is an im- 
measurable responsibility. 

Experience leads me to believe that nothing is to be learned 
and prognosticated from the works of certain early years, unless 
one is bent on a presumptuous prophecy or on circumlocutions 
that are so out of place in the face of artistic realizations, before 
which (despite all criticism) only yes and no can stand. 

It makes no difference what one writes as a very young person, 
just as it makes almost no difference what else one undertakes. 
The apparently most useless distractions can be a pretext for 
inwardly collecting oneself; yes, they can even be instinctively 
seized upon by Nature to lead the examining observation and at- 
tention of an inquisitive intellect away from spiritual processes, 
for which it is important to remain unknown. One may do any- 
thing; this alone corresponds to the whole breadth life has. But 
one must be sure not to take it upon oneself out of opposition, out 
of spite toward hindering circumstances or, with others in mind, 
out of some kind of ambition. One must be sure to act out of 
desire, out of strength, courage or high spirits: to have to act so. 

It often struck me later how much art is a matter of conscience. 
In artistic work one needs nothing so much as conscience: it is 
the sole standard. (Criticism is not one, and even the approval or 
rejection of others active outside of criticism should only very 

seldom, under unmistakable conditions, acquire influence.) That 
is why it is very important not to misuse one'$ conscience in those 
early years, not to become hard at the place where it lies. It must 
remain light through everything; one may feel it just as little as 
any inner organ that is withdrawn from our will. The gentlest 
pressure emanating from it, however, one must heed, else the 
scale on which one will later have to test every word of the verses 
to be written will lose its extreme sensitivity. 

I hardly know what more to say than this, which is valid in 
every case. Perhaps to add the advice to take solitude seriously 
and, whenever it comes, to feel k a good thing. That others give 
you no relief lies less in your indifference and reserve than in the 
fact that we are really, every one of us, infinitely alone, and in- 
accessible save with very rare exceptions. To that one has to 
accommodate oneself. 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

October 24, 1907 

... I said: gray yesterday, in giving the background of the 
self-portrait, light copper obliquely crossed with a gray pattern; 
I should have said: a particular metallic white, aluminium or 
something similar, for gray, literally gray, cannot be shown in 
Cezanne's pictures. To his eye, most intensely that of a painter, 
it did not stand up as a color: he got to the bottom of it, and found 
it to be violet there or blue or reddish or green. Violet especially 
(a color never before opened up so extensively and in such varia- 
tion) he likes to recognize where we expect only gray and are 
content with that; then he doesn't let up but fetches out the so- 
to-speak wrapped-up violets, just as some evenings do, autumn 
evenings especially, that address the graying of faades directly 
as violet, so that it answers them in every tone, from light, floating 
lilac to the heavy violet of Finnish granite. When I made this 
observation, that there was nothing really gray in these pictures 
(in the landscapes the presence of ocher and unburnt and burnt 

earths is too palpable for gray to occur), Fraulein Vollmoeller 
pointed out to me how much, nevertheless, when one stood among 
them, an atmosphere of soft, mild gray emanated from them, and 
we agreed that the inner equilibrium of Cezanne's colors, which 
nowhere stand out and obtrude, evokes this quiet, as-it-were al- 
most velvet air, that certainly does not come easily into being in 
the hollow inhospitality of the Grand Palais. Though it is one 
of his peculiarities to use chrome yellow and burning red lacquer 
quite pufe for his lemons and apples, he still knows how to keep 
their loudness within the picture: all of it, as if into an ear, sounds 
into a listening blue and thence gets a mute answer, so that no one 
outside need feel spoken to or called to. His still lives are so won- 
derfully occupied with themselves. The often employed white 
cloth in particular, that miraculously soaks up the preponderant 
local color, and the objects placed therein, that now, each with its 
whole heart, comment on this and speak their minds. The use of 
white as a color was from the first a matter of course to him: with 
black it formed the two ends of his wide open palette, and in the 
very beautiful composition of a black stone mantelpiece with its 
pendulum clock, black and white (the latter in a cloth that covers 
part of the slab, hanging down) behave quite coJorlike beside the 
other colors, on equal terms and as if long acclimated. (Differently 
than in Manet, where the black acts like the interruption of a 
current and yet, as if coming from elsewhere, still contrasts with 
the colors.) In the white cloth there brightly assert themselves a 
coffee cup with a very dark blue stripe around the rim, a fresh, 
fully ripened lemon, a cut glass goblet with indented edge and, at 
the extreme left, a large baroque triton shell, peculiar and eccen- 
tric looking, with its smooth red mouth facing forward. Its inner 
carmine, swelling out into the light, provokes the wall behind it 
to a thunderstormy blue, which the gold-framed mantel mirror 
near by repeats once again deepened and more ample; here in the 
reflection it again meets with a contradiction: with the milky 
pink of a glass vase which, standing on the black clock, twice 
(actually and, a little more yieldingly, in the reflection) makes its 
contrast tell. Room and mirror-room are by this double stroke 

conclusively defined and musically differentiated as it were, and 
the picture contains them as a basket contains fruit and leaves: 
as though that were all as simple to grasp and to give. But there is 
yet another object there, on the bare slab, pushed up to the white 
cloth; for this I would like to look the picture through again. But 
the salon is no more; in a few days it will be followed by an ex- 
hibition of automobiles which, each with its fixed idea of speed, 
will stand there long and stupidly. . . . 

C '*J3 

To Clara Rilke 29 rue Cassette, Paris VI 

October 26, 1907 (Saturday) 

. . . it's no use, though enmity has already been sown among 
my things and they are treading on each other's heads and one 
is on the other's heels, I must write anyway before I go at my 
packing again. Yesterday almost nothing happened: there are 
letters and they want to be put in order; there are those things 
that take delight in repeatedly turning up at certain intervals, 
until at the crucial moment they hide and watch from somewhere 
how they, whom before one had wished out of the way, are 
being sought and needed. There are all the remarkable forma- 
tions of the breakup, bastards sprung from the association of im- 
possible objects, in a word: misery, hell; you know it. And one 
plays at foresight and fancies one can provide and select for in- 
definite future contingencies. I am fortunate meanwhile, in that 
Fraulein Vollmoeller (who has recently moved into a big new 
studio) is taking my standing desk and above all my books and 
housing them there, so that I won't have to consider them at least 
individually and yet through her can always have whatever I 
come to need in the course of the winter. 

Also it doesn't get light in the room until toward ten o'clock 
and grows dark again by around four, so that one hardly has time 
to see everything that is there. 

It seems to me I am oversensitive; even about the weather. But 
you must imagine something late. November, about the time 

when, in the rue de 1'Abbe de PEpee, we had already lit the stove 
several times, the time when one thinks of Verlaine, of how the 
corner of a coffeehouse seems to him a refuge, something mag- 
nificent with its mirrors covered with a tepid film of steam and 

And yet, however cold and harassed one may be, one is still 
much too well off; if (as I have just done again, for the first time 
in a long, long time) one goes through the Luxembourg and in 
the dense, close air sees the rise of the fountains (like a woman 
in a Japanese print) and a dahlia that melts like a dark berry as 
one looks at it, and geranium-red and yellow in begonias and 
colors and colors (the light ones as if they had turned fluid, the 
dark ones on a black ground), all fraternizing with each other 
on gray one is after all compensated, over and over, and can 
scarcely tear oneself away. . . . 

c '*<n 

To Clara Rilke Hotel Erzherzog Stefan, Wenzelsplatz 

Prague [November i, 1907] 

. . . will one be here someday and able to see even this, see it 
and say it, from one stage of existence to another? Will one no 
longer have to bear its weight, the immense significance it took 
on when one was little and it was already big and growing out 
beyond one; in those days it used one in order to feel itself. There 
was a child, and all this felt itself through him, saw itself mirrored 
in him large and fantastic, became haughty and ominous toward 
his heart. All this it may no longer be. Degraded below itself, 
come back again like one who has long done violence, it is some- 
how ashamed before me, exposed, confined, as if it were now 
meeting justice and retribution. But I cannot rejoice to see badly 
treated that which once was hard and overbearing toward me and 
never condescended to me and never explained to me what differ- 
ence is decreed between us, what hostile kinship. It makes me sad 
to see these house corners, those windows and entrances, squares 
and church roofs humbled, smaller than they were, reduced and 

altogether in the wrong. And now in their new state they are just 
as impossible for me to master as they were then in their arrogance* 
And their weight has turned into the reverse of what it was, but 
how much, place for place, it has remained weight. More than 
ever since this morning I feel the presence of this city as some- 
thing incomprehensible and confused. It should either have passed 
away with my childhood, or my childhood should have flowed 
off it later, leaving it behind, real beside all reality, to see and 
express objectively like a Cezanne object, incomprehensible so 
far as I am concerned, but tangible. But this way it is ghostly, like 
the people who belong to it and to me from earlier days and who 
bring us together and speak of us in the same breath. I have 
never felt it so oddly, my aversion was never so great as this time 
(probably because meanwhile my disposition to see and to 
take everything I look at with an eye to my work has greatly 
developed). . . . 

C ''73 

To Clara Rilke November 4 [1907], morning 

on the Prague-Breslau train 

. . will you believe that I came to Prague to see Cezannes? 
That beside your letter there was a letter from Rodin in my pocket 
when I drove to the lecture? (Last evening at five.) So every- 
thing comes and comes, and one has only to be there with all 
one's heart. First: Rodin's letter. The salutation: Cher Monsieur 
Rilke, at the close, greetings and quite special greetings and warm 
remembrances for you. The whole written by Mr. Cherny, in 
his polite tone, and only signed by Rodin. The contents factual, 
concerning an exhibition of the drawings in Vienna at Heller's, 
the very bookdealer's where I shall read and stay; inquiring 
about his reliability. But I am happy, happy. It has been so diffi- 
cult just lately not to be able to get into communication with him 
on practical matters; this exhibition in Vienna was to be done; 
Kunst und Kunstler wanted to reproduce drawings, and all I 
could do was admit that I was not in a position to be of the least 


use. Once this practical connection is established, however, I can 
attend to all that whenever occasion requires: which is so natural 
for me. You will understand that I am happy. I answered imme- 
diately, just as factually, but spoke of all the matters that had 
accumulated. He is just having translated for himself (so he 
wrote) the extract of my new Rodin work reprinted in Kunst 
und Kunstler (October issue, which I am bringing along). And 
Cezanne. Out in the Manes Pavilion, where Rodin's exhibition 
was in its day, there was (as I luckily learned in time) a show of 
modern pictures . . . That and the two hours in Schloss Jano- 
vic were the best and most peaceful. Of Janovic too there would 
be much to tell. The carriage ride itself through the hard glazed 
autumn afternoon and the naive country was so beautiful. I drove 
alone from the train and back to the train. And that was Bohemia 
as I knew it, hilly like light music and all at once level again be- 
hind its apple trees, flat without much horizon and divided up 
through the plowed fields and rows of trees like a folk song from 
refrain to refrain. And suddenly one went gliding out of all that 
(as if passing in a skiff through a weir) through a park gate, and 
park it was, old park, and came up quite close to one with its moist 
autumn. Until after several turnings, bridges, vistas, separated by 
an old moat, the castle rose up, old, its upper part bending back- 
ward as if in haughtiness, scattered over with windows and coats 
of arms, with balconies and oriels, set up around courts as if no 
one were to be allowed to see them. The Baroness, who is 
widowed, remained (it was All Souls' Day) in retirement; the 
beautiful young Baroness (who looks like a miniature that was 
made a year before the great Revolution, at the last moment) came 
to meet me on the castle bridge with her two very attractive 
young brothers; we went through the park, then as it was already 
turning dusk, through the extraordinary castle (with an unfor- 
gettable dining hall), while two menservants with heavy silver 
candelabra shed light into the deep apartments as into courts. So 
we remained quite by ourselves and (which with the shortness 
of time was especially pleasant) finally drank tea (there were 
pineapple slices with it) and were happy together, each enjoying 

_ 3^5 

the other. It was a little like a children's party, only that there 
were no grownups and one unpacked and packed the toy boxes 
in imagination. In the course of conversation the remarkable fact 
came out that Kamenitz an der Linde, the castle in Bohemia that 
belonged to our great-grandfather, was at another time (perhaps 
afterward) the property of an ancestor of these Nadhernys, a 
direct forebear. Prague itself was confused. Everyone wanted to 
have me, as though I were edible, but once they had me, I found 
them not hungry and as if they had to diet. My mother took lots 
of trouble to do everything possible. But . . . The reading dull; 
again the awful old ladies, whom as a child I used to marvel at, 
still the same and no more amusing now that the marveling was 
on their side. A few litterateurs, also the same, dustier, shabbier, 
and more worn-out with every year, inquisitive and too kind- 
hearted and too easygoing to be envious. (I shall still get to dramas 
sometime. I am beginning to see people, even noticing the "animal 
faces" Ibsen saw, the snouts and sets of teeth, but am not stopping 
there; for only back of that does it really begin to get interesting 
and, over and above all aversion and antipathy, just.) ... I first 
read poems from the B. of P., then Christine Brahe. Then new 
things: except for the "Carrousel," nothing was even picked up. It 
all remained lying where it fell. The program will be similar 
everywhere. . . . 

To Clara Rilke Hotel Monopol, Breslau 

November 6, 1907, evening 

Thanks for your poste restante letter. So we walk, as though 
side by side, in the same stiff, icy wind; for here too it is like that, 
clear and cold; one could easily write December. 

Again my trunks are standing packed, already for the third 
time since Paris, and are making the nature morte I drew for Ruth. 
The Breslau evening yesterday before those many people went 
off well; they were better than their reputation, and it was need- 
less bragging to threaten me with them. They were the usual sort 

who subscribe to everything and want something for their money. 
They couldn't say they weren't getting anything. So they sat 
still, coughed at judicious intervals, and behaved as the better 
ones among them had learned to do. Some contact was even 
established, here and there, so that I liked reading better than in 
dull Prague. "The Carrousel" again found its friends. And Ivan 
the Terrible developed into a kind of dramatic performance 
that kept everyone in suspense quite far back. . . . 

C **9 1 

To Clara Rilke Hotel Matschakerhof, Vienna I 

November 9, 1907 

. . . now we are each in a big city, each seeing people and 
certainly being surprised a hundred times a day. It is remarkable 
here, with the seeing people and all; it is such that it finds me 
totally unprepared, not the least bit of it reaches the point of 
being expressible: so little can I master as yet; here is a city, an 
old, self-assured, individual city, lying about me, standing there 
with its ancient churches and groups of houses, crossing back and 
forth twenty times with its bridges over the too little river and 
its canals, streaming with people, driving with fast carriages, with 
carriages that turn the corners noiselessly on the asphalt, preceded 
by a rapid trotting, a very light ring of hoofs quickly and variously 
intermingled, as of bobbins in lace-making; a city in which every- 
thing is different from the way one knows it, without this dif- 
ferentness lying in anything visible; rather it hovers about what 
is here merely like a convention of old, like a still surviving 
tradition, orally passed on, interpreting even the most remote 
in a way that is intimate and somehow unexpected: speaks fa- 
miliarly to it, names it, knows it, adapts itself to it, makes it 
popular, draws it into the habitual (while Paris leaves everything 
outside), associates with it as with everyday things, concerns 
itself goodnaturedly and loyally with it ; here is this city, and 
one is not able to give an inkling of what makes these old streets 

so special, these squares so old-fashioned, the old Hofburg with 
its courtyards so ceremonious and formal, the Rings so dazzling, 
the gardens so ample, the baroque fountains so indispensable, 
and the columns of the Virgin so native: and yet the coher- 
ence and the existence of it all is condensed to the point of 
becoming a fragrance; one feels it as in childhood one felt a bak- 
ery, a butcher shop, or a grocery store; so entirely pervaded with 
itself, recognizable at every point and to be grasped in every 
characteristic by all one's senses: here too atmosphere has come 
into being, environment irradiated and darkened from within, in 
which people are at home and which as a stranger one shares, 
wards off, touches, tastes with every movement. 

But my evening is over too. Well. To be sure, as a result of 
the rapid traveling, the many intense conversations, the attentive 
observation of people (which is still the most difficult use of 
observation), I had too much blood in my head, so much that 
after reading the first two poems, suddenly (I had expected and 
hoped for it before) I felt my nosebleed coming: my precious 
constitution didn't realize where I was, and seized, as it has a 
way of doing, on this simple way out. I wasn't angry with it: 
what are people to it. I told the people to have patience for a 
while and why, went into the authors' stall, like a goat, settled 
myself there as always with water, wash basin, let it bleed (every- 
one came and said, put your head back, etc. but I knew that the 
blood would then flow behind and that would be the end of my 
voice), so let it bleed without nervousness, came out again re- 
freshed and read well and clearly the entire evening (as prose 
selection the death of Chamberlain Christoph Detlev Brigge). 
During the mishap Hof mannsthal came behind, spoke to me, was 
charming. In case of necessity I will read, he said. But fortunately 
it wasn't necessary. Everyone was very attentive, everyone 
wanted to see me, to shake my hand. Today many flowers are 
coming, as is in keeping with the temperament here. But the first 
were sent by Sidie Nadherny (who for some other reason was in 
Vienna for the day without my seeing her). I had the feeling 

that you had instructed everyone to bring me flowers for once. 
That I should need them. Which was the case. Right Mter the 
lecture, Heller gave me your letter. At night, home at las*,t, I read 
it; it is so beautiful. I shall read it over every day. How \\yell you 
feel and say all that. You dear one, who do not feel too soorV; who 
only feel when the feeling has become mature. You can't tJhink 
how good it was, at last alone in the night to know you thinking 
and feeling and believing all those things. 

C *9 3 

To Clara Rilke H. Mayreder's Hotel Matschakerhof, Vienna 

[November n, 1907] 

. . . And on the same evening Heller gave me a letter from 
Rodin: long and affectionate: All is 'well again. I could hardly 
believe it and read it over and over. But the close of the letter 
leaves no doubt. It reads: "venez, quand vous etes a Paris me voir. 
Des choses, des choses. Nous avons besoin de la verite, de la poesie 
tous deux et d'amitie." The dear, just man who lives things so 
honestly from his work outward! The just man. I have always 
known that he is that, and you knew it too. He thinks affection- 
ately of you. He tells about his drawings containing the story of 
Psyche. He writes that he had thought of me: that I would have 
to rewrite this ancient myth just as he had to draw it; it had lifted 
him out beyond everything he had as yet attained: "c'est 1'histoire 
si delicieuse de la f emme et de son entree dans la vie " Through 
my agency then, over sixty drawings are to be exhibited here at 
Heller's. They are already on the way. The essay in Kunst und 
Kunstler pleased him: "votre etude . . . je la trouve tres belle 
de verite." 

Better things I couldn't have written to you in the big city, in 
which every bit of good news is even more desirable than else- 
where! Isn't that so? 

I am on the way to Hof rnannsthal at Rodaun where I am lunch- 
ing today. More tomorrow. . , . 


To Clara Rilke Zattere 1471, Venice 

(chez Mile. Romanelli) November 20, 1907 

. . . already I must add to my letter, that I think it was a good 
thing to come here in all this strangeness. Do you remember how 
great it is, how incalculable? And it is even more so now in this 
gray cold that makes no effort: This Venice seems to me almost 
hard to admire; it has to be learned over again from the beginning. 
Ashen its marble stands there, gray in the grayness, light as the 
ashy edge of a log that has just been aglow. And how unexplained 
in its selection is the red on walls, the green on window shutters; 
discreet and yet not to be surpassed; bygone, but with a fullness 
of transiency; pale, but as a person turns pale in excitement. And 
this not from a hotel: from a little house, with old things, two 
sisters and a maid; before which the water now lies, black and 
gleaming, a couple of sailboats in which the hawsers creak; and in 
an hour the full moon is bound to come across from the Riva. I 
am full of expectancy . , . 

To Countess Lili KanitZ-Menar 17 nie Campagne-Premiere, Paris 

July 1 6, 1908 (evening) 

I thank you, dear friend, for having written. I have wanted to 
fifty times since your letter and couldn't get to it. I have so much 
to overcome this time, in my work I mean, and am not as vigorous 
as I should be. And then added to everything came this incongru- 
ous event. What is one to say, how is one to classify it? it is 
always the same question. I have had to put it to myself several 
times in recent years. The death of Countess Schwerin and my 
father's death (through both of whom I experienced infinite 
bigness and generosity) have brought about my no longer fearing 
the question. Nevertheless it is hard to have it so close about one 


again, even in brightest day. And in this last case it is complicated 
by so much: who was this woman, who lived for others and yet, 
behind everything and without knowing or admitting it, carried 
within her, as though unbroached, a whole lifetime's claims: so 
that it could often occur to one that she was also the opposite of 
what she wanted to be, and both would be equally genuine and 
equally unreal. And finally, what sort of relationship did one have 
with her, in which sympathy, yes even admiration, was so re- 
markably matched with resistance and rejection and condemna- 
tion that one never had the courage to balance it up and carry it 
along as the final sum. I have moreover for a long time received 
the kindness she tendered to me and which finally began to be 
called friendship, I don't know when, more as a beautifully ful- 
filled legacy from the magnificent sister who preceded her than 
as a gift really her own: whereby I only got further and further 
from any insight into this personality. And now my attitude 
toward death is such that it frightens me more in those whom I 
have missed, who have remained unexplained to me or fateful 
than among those whom I loved with certainty while they lived, 
even though they shone forth only for a moment in the trans- 
figuration of that closeness which love can attain. Given a 
certain naivete and joy in the real (which in no way depends on 
time) , people need never have come upon the idea that they could 
ever lose again that with which they had truly linked themselves: 
no constellation stands together thus; no act performed is so ir- 
revocable as a human relation, which indeed, in the very instant of 
its visible formation, goes on more strongly and powerfully in 
the invisible, in the farthest depths: there where our existence is as 
lasting as gold in rock; more constant than a star. 

For this reason I agree with you, dear friend, when you say you 
mourn for those "who go away." Alas, only those can go away 
from us whom we never possessed. And we cannot even grieve 
at not having properly possessed this person or that: we would 
have neither time nor strength nor justness for that; for even the 
most momentary experience of a real possession (or of a com- 
panionship, which is but double possession) throws us with such 

momentum back into ourselves, gives us so much to do there, re- 
quires of us so much loneliest development: that it would suffice 
to occupy us each by himself forever. 

C in 3 

To Clara Rilke 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

Thursday, September 3, 1908 

What you tell does not detract from the lovely flowers. They 
came as though alone and had their own quality, as you yours. 
And now I want to tell you that you are right in your feeling 
that I had better not come. After the experiences filling these last 
two days to the brim, I can't help feeling that for the future I shall 
always have to decide on staying: it is decidedly the more fruitful. 
Be prepared to learn of a whole lot of new things, good ones, that 
is, such as are well in hand and will now have to be guided and 

Rodin actually did announce himself, just after I had moved in, 
came yesterday morning, spoke from his heart, without complain- 
ing, objectively. I won't let it bother me, and will be as kind to 
him as I always was. It would certainly be the richest thing that 
could come about if he were to need us now a thousandth as much 
as we once needed him. Perhaps you feel differently for yourself. 
Do so. To me it would be like a miracle if this so far-flung road, 
which I pursued even into being misunderstood, where it sadly and 
bewilderingly lost itself, should not only be found again but also 
were to round itself out to a wide circle through his dear, earnest 

We sat in your high room; he went and placed and turned the 
mask: it pleased him again. I read aloud to him what Beethoven 
had said to Bettina Arnim: "No friend have I, I must live with my- 
self alone; but I know well that God is closer to me than to others 
in my art, I go about with him without fear, I have always recog- 
nized and understood him; I am also not at all afraid for my 
music, that can have no ill fate; he to whom it makes itself intelli- 
gible must become free of all the misery with which others are 


encumbered." How he loved it. He knew it: someone had sent 
him the whole passage when the Balzac was exhibited. He knows 
all that better than anyone else, and what we discovered yesterday 
has lived with him for a long time already and he has children by 
it. And now I also see his fate, which may lie in the race. I spoke 
fo him of northern people, of women who do not want to hold 
on to the man, of possibilities of love without deceit: he listens 
and listens and cannot believe that that exists, and yet wishes to 
experience it. That woman is the obstruction, the snare, the trap 
on those paths that are the most lonely and most blessed: that 
seems to him fated. To be sure, he also thinks that the sensual must 
so spread out and transform itself that it is equally strong and 
sweet and seductive at every point, in every thing. That each 
thing transcends the sexual and in its mpst sensuous fullness passes 
over into the spiritual, with which one can lie together only in 
God. But woman remains apart for him and beneath all that. She 
does not, like things, resolve into something more demanding: 
she wants to be satisfied and is satisfied. And so she is like nourish- 
ment for the man, like a drink which flows through him from time 
to time: wine. He believes in wine. And I mention the Nun to 
him and speak to him of all the transformed bliss here and there 
and of the will of the woman out beyond satisfaction; he does not 
believe in that; and unfortunately he has for his opinion so many 
saints who, it can be shown, used Christ like a bedfellow: as a 
sweet substitute for the masculine, as the tenderest loves that was 
to be had, after all in the end to be had. And against that I have 
my Nun again. And show how in her few letters she has grown 
out beyond her beloved, and knows it too. And swear that if the 
Count de Chamilly, cette bete, yielding to the last letter, had re- 
turned, she could not have taken cognizance of him at all, as one 
cannot see a fly below from the balcony of a tower. And I am 
inexorable and yield nothing of my Nun. 

This is a situation from our yesterday's and today's conversa- 
tions, a position on the chessboard which you can picture from 
this description. I am so happy that we have come unexpectedly to 
these subjects, which were probably always in the way. The mo- 


ment was sure to come when he would see the miscalculation in 
his prodigious sums. And it testifies to the order in the world 
that at that very moment, when the maliciousness of this ever- 
recurring danger is preoccupying him perhaps because of a mo- 
mentary difficulty, the man was again beside him who himself has 
every need of understanding and classifying it according to his 
wisest knowledge. He is like a god of antiquity bound to the rites 
traditional in him, even to those which are not meant for us and 
yet were necessary in the cult of his soul in order to mold him. I 
shall not change him. But the voice did speak beside him. It is in 
his reality and will not drop out of it again. And that is a great 

Our lunching together again today was an exception and had 
the following reason: Rodin will be your housemate here in your 
palace. He has rented all the lower rooms, the whole right corner 
on the ground level, with the square middle room that I wanted 
perhaps to take. They are rooms such as he has always wished for 
in vain, so much so, that he finally began to build some out there. 
He wants to set up many things there and to come sometimes to 
be with them and to look out through the stately windows into 
the garden, in this place where no one will find him or think he 
could possibly be. In my joy at all that, I went out again yesterday 
and bought the beautiful wooden Christopher that looks like him 
and gave it to him today for a good omen and said: Cest Rodin 
portant son oeuvre, tou jours plus lourd, mais qui tient le monde. 
(The sweet, straight-sitting child holds a globe possessively in his 
left hand, and the tall old man moves along magnificently under 
him and has plans. It is a good work of the sixteenth century.) It 
pleased him and the interpretation pleased him, he was happy as 
a child and eager in taking it. To him it was a good sign. 

But I still haven't come to the end of the surprises: I too am 
continuing to be your housemate; I have just rented the left cor- 
ner under Mademoiselle Gourvitch for myself; the circular struc- 
ture with two rooms and direct opening on the terrace. It is much 
too expensive for me, five hundred more than I should have spent: 
but I do want to work. I shall not travel and shall work continu- 

334 _ 

ally, so five hundred francs must be possible to make up. Mustn't 
they? And I think I shouldn't postpone it and wait until Fraulein 
Vollmoeller's difficulties become acute up there. So I have a place 
and will take it on in the winter. Mr. Duval will have a tremendous 
amount to do to get Rodin's rooms in order, so that I shall have 
to wait for mine; but for the present I am in splendor in your 
rooms. I feel easy and well after these decisions, whatever comes 
now will be all right. To take action is better even than doing 
exercises. Moreover it is raining and behaving like autumn, as 
though it were already October, but now it can be as it pleases; if 
only God remains firm. Farewell, dear, and thank you for your 
thought. It was certainly there in everything. Good days and 

To Clara Rilke 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

September 4, 1908 

Postscript to yesterday's: 

There was so much, that I forgot to tell you how well I under- 
stand your joy and new interest in the fine bust of Paula Becker; 
the other day I thought of it all of a sudden quite intensively, 
saw it, when I discovered up on the second floor of the Louvre 
collection a royal sandstone bust of the eighteenth dynasty. It 
resembled it so strangely in bearing and composition and expres- 
sion: it made me think how much that is big must after all lie in 
your early work if such an unpredictable impression can forcibly 
call it up in one, the way the mirror image one notices of an object 
at once evokes that object, even if one doesn't see it. This, in 
the boundless heavens of work, is the first state of bliss: when a 
much earlier thing is given back to one so that one may grasp it 
and take it to oneself with a love meantime become more just. 
Here begins the revision of categories, where something past 
comes again, as though out of the future; something formerly ac- 
complished as something to be completed. And this is the first 
experience that sets one, removed out of sequence, upon one's 


own heart-site, which is in space and is always equidistant from 
everything and knows rising and setting through the endless mo- 
tion about it. 

I am reading Goethe's Correspondence 'with a Child, that 
strong, most urgent evidence against him which confirms all my 
suspicions. You understand, that is meant according to the ex- 
treme standard, without prejudice to his universality. Make 
Laurids noted about it: "Goethe and Bettine: a love is growing 
up there, irresistible, in the fullness of its time and right, like the 
tide of ocean, like the rising year. And he does not find the one 
gesture to direct her out beyond himself, there whither she is bent. 
(He is the^court of highest appeal); he accepts her, magnani- 
mously, without using her properly; chidden, embarrassed, occu- 
pied elsewhere with a love affair ." 

Make Laurids is right; but, since yesterday, I think that Rodin 
would in like case have failed similarly, only with a more sympa- 
thetic gesture; and how rash it is to condemn where such powers 
fail, dissolving like a little cloud where they touch on the con- 
ventions of love: without anger, without storm, without fertiliz- 
ing shower over the thirsting earth . 

How magnificent this Bettine Arnim is; once I met a woman 
who was like that up to a point. At the time I fell into an inde- 
scribable admiration and noted down the expression about sensu- 
alite d'ame, which since Sappho has been one of the great transfor- 
mations through which the world slowly becomes more real. And 
now I see in Bettine that this has already existed in its entirety 
(while Goethe stared at it and didn't believe it and felt frightened 
by it). What an elemental creature she is; what a transfigurer, 
what a storm breaking in the air of her time. How we would have 
loved each other, face en face. I should indeed have liked to an- 
swer her letters; that would have become like a heavenly ascen- 
sion, without shame, before the eyes of all. 

Perhaps this too shows how our ways are for the moment run- 
ning counter to each other, that I am learning from this book 
while Buddha must wait. Don't condemn this. Please take me as I 
am and have trust. Ask nothing else of me, not even in your mind. 


I would feel it otherwise, and it would lay itself on a part of my 
heart that should be guileless. 

You are now going so straight toward the divine; no, you are 
flying toward it, over everything, in straightest flight which noth- 
ing opposes. And I have been there, always, even as a child, and 
am on my way walking thence and am sent out (not to proclaim) , 
to be amidst the human, to see everything, to reject nothing, 
none of the thousand metamorphoses in which the extreme dis- 
guises and blackens itself and makes itself unrecognizable. I am 
like one who gathers mushrooms and medicinals among the herbs; 
one looks bent and busied with very small things then, while the 
tree trunks round about stand and worship. But the time will come 
when I shall prepare the potion. And that other time, when for 
its strength's sake I shall take it up, this potion in which all is 
condensed and combined, the most poisonous and most deadly; 
take it up to God, so that he may quench his thirst and feel his 
splendor streaming through his veins. . . . 

You mustn't put me down as boastful and wordy on account of 
all this. It is forced out of me because I am alone and yet was not 
alone these last months, and a little as though under supervision. 
Don't be afraid but I am so exaggeratedly sensitive, and no 
sooner does an eye rest on me than it has paralyzed me somewhere. 
I would like ever and again to know that only the constellations 
dwell above me, which from their distance see everything at once, 
as a whole, and so bind nothing, rather leave all things free in 
every way . . . 

Good-by, dear. Have the little casts sent soon for Rodin to see 
here next time. It will please him. , . . 

n wn 

To Clara Rilke 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

September 8, 1908 

I just received, my deaf, such a very beautiful copy of The 
Discourses; with a black buckskin back that bears the titles on two 
strips of malachite-green leather. I thank Anna Jaenecke and you 


from my heart for this great gift; and in connection with what I 
wrote recently, I would like to say further: I know what I was 
getting. I opened it, and even at the first words, just the words I 
happened to open to, a shudder came over me, as though doors 
were opening into a golden hall in which there is nothing but 
symmetry. Why I hold back before this quiet door that is only 
on the latch: why this new hesitant gesture rises in me that sur- 
prises you so much? it may be that it is happening for the sake 
of Make Laurids, whom I have too long postponed. Until then I 
am one with him so far as I must be for keeping the necessary 
state toward him and the acquiescence in his going under. Too far 
out beyond^ his suffering I may not go, else I shall no longer under- 
stand him, else he will fall away and fail for me, and I can no 
longer give him the whole fullness of his death. 

Not my insights do 1 want to limit, but his, in the orbit and 
direction of which I must still be able to believe. For actually, I 
feel now, I should have written him last year; after the Cezanne 
letters, that offered so close and stern an analogy, I had arrived at 
the contours of his figure: for Cezanne is nothing else but the first 
primitive and bare achievement of that, which in M.L. was not 
yet achieved. Brigge's death: that was Cezanne's life, the life of 
his last thirty years. And now I understand too my being lost last 
year, when I was continually in the wrong place because I did not 
dwell upon that figure, for which nothing was lacking save my 
power to concentrate and organize; save for my heart to strike 
like a hammer against the bell-bowl of that existence, the bowl out 
of which vibrates, along with every Ave Maria and every Kyrie 
of heaven, the neighboring-tone of a crack that seeks to heal in 
me. Can you imagine that? 

Now I know too that I have only one thing to beg of you two: 
help me, as far as you can, to quiet time, so that I can make my 
Make Laurids: I can go on only through him, he stands in my 
way: that is why you found me dammed up like this beside your 
quiet stream and saw me staying behind, as if out of obstinacy, 
and couldn't understand it. 

I don't want to move but to strike root and do this belated work 

338 _ 

this winter until into the spring; I think to myself: I must stay 
healthy over it, for it; through it, not least. Oh that you two 
understood it. 

Just think, near the shop in rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs a 
regular, very nice vegetarian restaurant has been set up, which has 
nothing at all of the usual shabbiness, but rather is quite clean and 
ample and like a new toy the children haven't yet investigated, 
shining as it moves. I have lunched there twice with pleasure. And 
right here and now let an invitation be extended to you and Anna 
Jaenecke for a dejeuner I would like to offer you there. . . 

To Elisabeth 

Baroness Schenck zu Schiveinsberg 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

September 23, 1908 

You have done a really good work in receiving my letter, de- 
spite all its lateness, without reproach and as naturally as I needed, 
for a long time, to write it. Although your insight and great fair- 
ness go so far as to release me from all writing, my joy over your 
letter of this morning is so great that I would have to break out 
for myself, even from the most compactly pressed time, the 
quarter of an hour for a short, gratefully meant reply, in order to 
set it as a small, inconspicuous stone in the ring of thoughts that 
have formed around your news. 

It is after my own heart that it should be good news, given out 
from a stable inner center that seeks to keep its station and its 
strength in the face of everything. What you say of the passing 
of your dear aunt accords entirely with my feeling: that we must 
not be sad for her. But as to the influence of the death of someone 
near on those he leaves behind, it has long seemed to me that this 
should be no other than that of a higher responsibility; does not 
the person who passes on relinquish to those who survive him the 
hundredfold things he had begun, as something to be carried on, 
if they were to any extent inwardly bound to him? In recent years 
I have had to master so many near experiences of death, but no one 

_ _ _ _ 339 

has been taken from me without my having found the tasks about 
me more numerous. The weight of this unexplained and perhaps 
greatest of all experiences, which only through a misunderstand- 
ing has acquired the reputation of being arbitrary and cruel, 
presses us (so I increasingly believe) more evenly and deeply into 
life and lays the utmost obligations on our slowly growing powers. 

What a sweet turn you gave though to my own sad recollec- 
tions through the glimpse of that little childhood picture, which 
I have looked at quite attentively. I am sending it right back to 
you; because one doesn't like to think of such objects out of the 
house and on the way. 

How much childhood there is in it and how settled everything 
is in it, in the quiet, the so indescribable loneliness of being a 
child, at the time when seated on the chair one feels no floor and 
sits there so bravely in the very large space that begins everywhere 
around one and goes on and on. It is a very sweet, significant lit- 
tle picture: I thank you for letting me see it. 

Do continue to believe that with your feeling and with your 
work you are taking part in the greatest; the more strongly you 
cultivate in yourself this belief, the more will reality and world 
go forth from it. 

To Rosa Schobloch 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

September 24, 1908 

. . . Your understanding of the situation confronting the artist 
is more than merely generous; it is just. You cannot possibly know 
how rare it is. How hard everything tries to interrupt, divert, and 
hinder the artistic worker from going into himself; how every- 
thing condemns him when he wants to tend and to round out his 
inmost world, so that one day it may be able to hold in balance 
and, as it were, to set on a par with itself the whole external uni- 
verse, all of it, even to the stars. And even the friends who look 
on compliantly at such an inner existence, how often even they, 
in giving, fall into the error of expecting from the creative worker 


a spiritual return outside of his work. From this I have had to 
suffer the more since there persists in my nature a great, almost 
passionate inclination toward every kind of giving: I have known, 
since childhood, no more tumultuous joy than to keep back noth- 
ing and to begin the giving-away with the dearest. I know that this 
is more a kind of instability and almost sentimental pleasure-seek- 
ing and no kindness whatsoever. For it to turn into a virtue, I 
must acquire the power to gather together all my giving in the 
one thing, the difficult, the laborious: in work. And the friends 
who through their selflessness and mature insight help me toward 
such progress I must consider my most precious and best and ac- 
cordingly must lay your note with its kind and great confession 
among my most important documents. 

I thank you for your good wishes for my further way; I do not 
fear the hardness of these learning years: my heart longs to be 
hammered and ground: if only it is my hardness, that which be- 
longs to me, and not, as during so many years of my youth, a use- 
less cruelty from which I could learn nothing. (And yet perhaps 
did learn, but with how much waste of strength.) 

I reciprocate once more with wishes for your winter. Dresden 
can certainly do and hold in readiness for you much that is pleas- 

I have seen it under three different circumstances: as a child, 
from the beautiful Hotel Bellevue, later for hours, going in from 
the Weisser Hirsch, and two years ago on the occasion of a lecture 
in the literary society. Each time they were not the best conditions 
for getting to know it. The treasure in the Green Vault I have 
never seen, and I remember the gallery only very fragmentary 
and superficially. I wish very much to devote a few days sometime 
to all those beautiful objects and portraits; recently, just as your 
letter was brought to me, my imagination was there in the Pastel 
Room with Rosalba Camera's pictures. If chance permits you to 
go in there sometime, think of me. Unhappy, like almost all 
women who in producing works of art had to make visible by 
force their inner intimate vocation (the works of art still not at- 
taining the intensity of their inner experience and suffering ), 

she seems to me one of the most remarkable and courageous 
figures, the way she passes right through almost fabulous fame, 
unspoiled, into the blindness of her last years, at its extreme limit, 
with already failing sight, painting perhaps that dying St. Theresa 
which is held in honor in Chioggia at the house of the Abbe 
Bellemo and attributed through oral tradition to her. . . . 

n '9*1 

To AugUSte Rodin 77 rue de Varenne [Paris} 

[in French] October 16, 1908 

I am just back from the Salon where I spent an hour before 
Greco's "Toledo." This landscape seems to me more and more 
astonishing. I must describe it to you as I saw it. Here it is: 

The storm has burst and is falling violently behind a city which 
on the slope of a hill climbs hastily up toward its cathedral and on 
higher toward its fortress, square and massive. A light all in tatters 
is belaboring the earth, stirring it, ripping it, and making the pale- 
green fields behind the trees stand out here and there, like sleep- 
less hours. A narrow river issues motionless from the pile of hills 
and terribly menaces with its black and nocturnal blue the green 
flames of the bushes. The startled and affrighted city rises in a last 
effort as though to pierce the anguish of the atmosphere. 

One should have dreams like that. 

Perhaps I am mistaken in clinging with a certain vehemence to 
this painting; you will tell me when you have seen it. 

II *99 3 

To AugUSte Rodin 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

[in French] December 29, 1908 

As for New Year's Day, I would almost like to avoid the word 
of greeting that is making the rounds, to speak to you more of my 
work. I must have told you again the other day that I am managing 
more and more to make use of that long patience you taught me 


by your tenacious example; that patience which, disproportionate 
to everyday life that seems to bid us haste, puts us in touch with 
all that surpasses us. 

Now indeed I feel that all my efforts would be vain without it. 
In writing poetry one is always aided and even carried away by 
the rhythm of external things; for the lyric cadence is that of 
Nature; of the waters, of the wind, of the night. But to make prose 
rhythmic one must go deep into oneself and find the anonymous 
and multiple rhythm of the blood. Prose wants to be built like a 
cathedral; there one is truly without name, without ambition, 
without help: among scaffoldings, with only one's conscience. 

And just think, in that prose I now know how to make men 
and women, children and old men. I have evoked women in par- 
ticular by carefully making all the things about them, leaving a 
blank which might be only a void, but which, fashioned amply 
and with tenderness, becomes vibrant and luminous, almost like 
one of your marbles. 

I would have to explain myself at length to anyone else. But 
you, my dear and only friend, you will know what that means. 

Your joy and mine differ only in degree; yours having been 
for a long time blessed and stigmatized. 

Also I am sure I am not mistaken in the wishes I bring you; there 
are at bottom few essential ones and on those, I believe, we are 
infinitely in accord. . . . 

P.S. The chandelier fits in well with the ensemble, and on my 
New Year's gift table the candy box presides with its handsome 
blue which is still that of the eighteenth century. 

C 200 ] 

To Countess Lili KanitZ-Menar 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

January 2, 1909 

Forgive me, dear friend, if I left everything so entirely to the 
book, and let holiday and year pass without a direct word of re- 
membrance. It will dispose you to leniency to hear that this time 


the cause was really our friend Make Laurids, whose memoirs 
have been claiming me intensively all these last months. Now I 
know so much about him and his, so many sure and remarkable 
tidings have reached me inwardly, that it is a joyous and difficult 
obligation to be there day after day entirely for his memory. Be- 
sides which, quite against my will, recent days have brought vari- 
ous interruptions, and the old intrusive holiday does somehow get 
through cracks and crannies when one wants simply to overlook 
it and shut it out. Perhaps weariness too accounts in part for one's 
letting oneself be promptly carried away and changed by a few 
letters and parcels and this or that outgoing thought: the same 
weariness of , which you speak. But just think, much as this weari- 
ness often upsets me and places me in a state of uncertainty : if 
I chance to look at someone who doesn't know it, who has gone 
on evenly in what he has once begun, I often think he achieves 
this only because his nature insists less honestly upon itself or be- 
cause his hearing has become dulled toward it. And really we are 
quite well off in being kept thus inwardly informed; perhaps in 
this striving and being drawn back is hidden the tendency and the 
possibility for a life rhythm that brings us into most intimate ac- 
cord with ourselves, provided only we have the patience to per- 
ceive it. Nor should failure be a disappointment for those who are 
beginning the ultimate and do not settle down in something of 
modest proportions; it is the graduated measure of our undertak- 
ings and ought not to be referred to our feelings at all nor to testify 
against our achievement, which after all is continually being put 
together out of thousands of new beginnings. 

Of this and of similar and quite different things we would per- 
haps have spoken before your lovely fireplace. We shall do so, I 
hope, some day at one of my glorious high windows, when spring 
comes outside in the garden. Do not forget that this is one of the 
friendly anticipations with which I am furnishing my new year. 
And now a hearty good-by and take all my wishes for your new 
year: good ones. . . . 


To Anton Kippenberg 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

January 2, 1909 

Your so thoroughly cordial letter dictated on December 3 1 of 
the old year is one reason the more for me to hope that mine 
written on the same day, with its not too modest assumptions, can- 
not have surprised you. You understand, do you not, that a per- 
son whose strength always suffices just for one thing is at times 
quite bluntly and inconsiderately concerned about that one thing; 
especially at a moment when he is experiencing in it such singular 
joys and progress as my present work has been affording me all 
these last weeks. I could tell you so much that is fine about it. 
Sometimes it seems to me I could die when it is done: so to the 
very end do all difficulty and sweetness come together in these 
pages, so finally does it all stand there and yet so boundlessly ca- 
pable of the transformations inherent in it that I have the feeling of 
transmitting myself with this book, far and surely, beyond all 
danger of death. Now I have only the one thing, you see, at heart: 
to be able to live as long as this is in process, and to be allowed to 
live entirely for it alone, locked in in this work and fed from with- 
out through a little sliding window, like a prisoner by whom all 
things, down to the humblest and most insignificant, are only now 
really appreciated. 

And if I think so calmly of no longer existing after this work, 
it is because I do not yet dare at all to promise myself the fullness 
I am gradually achieving with it: for now I am training for myself 
(this is certain, even if I overestimate some other things) a mas- 
sive, enduring prose, with which it will be possible to make abso- 
lutely everything. It would be glorious after that to continue or 
daily to begin anew with life's whole boundless task. . . . 


To Hugo Heller Paris, j une I2 , I909 

I thank you for your frank and cordial words. The destiny I at- 
tempted to relate and to lament in the "Requiem" (the inevitable 
fate of which you too recognized at painful proximity) is perhaps 
the real conflict of the artist: the opposition and contradiction be- 
tween objective and personal enjoyment of the world. That is 
all no less dangerously and conclusively demonstrated in a man 
who is an artist by necessity, but in a woman who has resolved 
upon the infinite transpositions of the artist's existence, the pain 
and danger of this choice increases to an unforgettable visibility. 
Since she is physical far into her soul and is designed for bringing 
forth living offspring, something like a slow transformation of all 
her organs must take place in her so that she may reach a vital 
fruitfulness of soul. 

The birth processes which in a purely spiritual way the man 
artist enjoys, suffers, and survives, may also broaden and be exalted 
into the most highly spiritual in the woman capable of artistic ges- 
tation, but in this they really undergo only a gradual intensifica- 
tion, still remaining, in unlimited ramifications, within the physical 
(so that, exaggerating, one might say that what is most spiritual in 
woman is somehow still body, body become sublime). Hence 
for her any relapse into a more primitive and narrow kind of suf- 
fering, enjoying, and bringing-forth is an overfilling of her 
organs with the blood that has been increased for another greater 

This destiny I sensed long ago, but I actually experienced it 
only when it grazed me personally and stood so big and close 
before me that I couldn't close my eyes because of it. 

Forgive me for not giving you back the book until today. I 
am involved in many arrears for which all the months of bad 
health I had to go through are to blame, 

To Karl Bonder Hey dt 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

August 5, 1909 

Need I assure you that your affectionate solicitude and what- 
ever misgiving you wrote of was not written on water? I have 
taken it to heart, and if I am not at once going in search of a 
doctor, still my own will is doctoring me, better than before, into 
becoming healthy and sound again. A doctor : it is not a ques- 
tion of any as things stand with me. Only I myself, who know 
their cause and the basis of their confusion, am able to break up 
this complicated interaction of physical and spiritual depressions: 
like Herr von Miinchhausen of yore I must pull myself out of 
the swamp by my own wig, or God will see to it at the last mo- 
ment that some clever bird sets me down tenderly on better 
terrain. To endure and have patience, to expect no help but the 
very great, almost miraculous: that has carried me along from 
childhood up; and so this time too, although the distress is last- 
ing somewhat longer than usual, I would like not to move my 
nature along by shoves from the outside, but, as one of the last, 
to wait until it takes the decisive leap of itself: only then shall 
I know that it was my own strength and genuine, and not bor- 
rowed or just a foreign ferment that bubbles up only to sink back 
again among cloudy sediment. . . . 

C *<>4 3 . 

To Jakob Baron Uexkull 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

August 19, 1909 

... If I did not write ... it was due to a succession and 
combination of various hindering circumstances. Almost simul- 
taneously with the year there began for me a period of exhaustion, 
of sickliness, finally of sickness, which, though I did not stop going 
about, reading, and spending regular hours at my desk, must, as I 
notice more and more, have been real: for even now my best 
moments are those of a convalescent, and I have a great many less 


good and a lot of bad ones. But not of that. I only bring it in by 
way of explanation; for your letter being what it was, you might 
well in the long pause have been confirmed in the assumption 
that it somehow hit a sensitive spot in me. I liked it, as I like all 
your letters. Nevertheless I grant it was not easy to answer. In 
conversation, which you too, as I read in it, would probably have 
preferred, a glance, a simultaneous silence would have brought 
us sooner to an understanding. Confined now to the limitations 
of writing, all I can do is beg that you continue to consider me 
as the person from whom the books have come which seem to you 
to be in the right. Those books (the Book of Hours particularly) 
paid as little heed and had as little reference to a reader as anything 
I have since let go out; so that the passage in your letter where you 
expect of me an art that is conscious of readers surprised me. It 
is possible that we diverge widely here. But this is not one of the 
essential points. More essential, it seems to me, is that, concerning 
those more recent books, I can assure you of my good, clear con- 
science: every word, every interval between the words in those 
poems came into being from extreme necessity, in the conscious- 
ness of that ultimate responsibility under whose inner tribunal 
my work is carried out. Perhaps shortcomings in my nature or 
omissions to be made up for in my development are the cause of 
that hard objectivity and unfeeling quality of what is portrayed: 
perhaps more pleasing ways are conceivable: I must continue on 
mine, difficult as it is. 

Do you not believe, dear friend, that even the Book of Hours 
was all filled with the determination in which (one-sidedly, if you 
will) I have been growing? To consider art not as a selection from 
the world, but rather as its total transformation into the glorious. 
The marveling with which art flings itself upon things (all things, 
without exception) must be so impetuous, so strong, so radiant, 
that the object has no time to think of its own ugliness or de- 
pravity. In the sphere of the terrible there can exist nothing so 
renunciatory and negative that the multiple action of artistic 
mastery would not leave it behind with a great, positive surplus, 
as something that affirms existence, wants to be: as an angel. In the 

343 _ 

Book of Hours you believed in this transformation, you under- 
stood it; in the later books, however, in which He is not mentioned 
for whose sake it takes place, you would incline to consider as a 
game what is still the same great need: and what therefore must 
be right, not for the onlookers, but for him who suffers and longs 
to survive. This is more or less what I would say, dear friend, for 
my own justification, incidentally. For above all I would ask 
about you and yours and listen at length, had I at last the joy of 
seeing you again. 

To Lou Andreas-Salome 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

October 23, 1909 

Dear Lou, I don't want to postpone writing you any longer, 
and wherever you are I want to find you and talk to you for these 
two pages. Lizzie Gibson wrote me once that they may perhaps 
expect you in Furuborg: is it there that you are reading this letter, 
in the autumn-wood air that rises from the lake up to the com- 
fortable country house, in which my "golden room," as it is called, 
often awaits me? 

How was your summer, how is your autumn going: I have 
often thought of it. 

I have been traveling around since September. First in the 
Schwarzwald, at the old mineral springs of Rippoldsau, where I 
took a kind of cure (pine-needle-air-baths, good food, but excel- 
lent the plain piny air itself and the sound and coolness of pure 
springs from all the hillsides: that was a big change that ought to 
work). . . . 

These last weeks, up to about ten days ago, I have been living 
in Provence, in Avignon; that was one of my most remarkable 
journeys. Almost daily, for seventeen days, I saw the immense 
Papal Palace, that hermetically sealed castle, in which the Papacy, 
finding itself going bad at the edges, thought to conserve itself, 
boiling itself down in a last genuine passion. However often one 
sees that desperate house, it stands upon a rock of unlikelihood, 
and one can enter it only by a leap across everything traditional 


and credible. From the other bank of the Rhone, seen from Ville- 
neuve, the city, God knows why, made me think of Novgorod, 
the great, and I did not then suspect that in this landscape, a few 
hours further on, I would find the marvelous place that was per- 
haps your earliest home. Have you never heard of Les Baux? One 
comes from Saint-Remy, where the earth of Provence bears field 
upon field of flowers, and suddenly everything turns to stone. An 
absolutely undisguised valley opens up, and barely is the rough 
road inside when it closes to behind it, shoves three mountains 
forward, mountains slantingly piled up one behind the other, three 
springboards so to speak, from which three last angels, with a 
terrified dash^ have leaped. And opposite, laid far into the heavens 
like stone into stone, rise up the borders of the strangest settle- 
ment, and the way thither is so barricaded and tumbled with the 
huge fragments (mountain or tower fragments, one does not 
know which) that one thinks one will oneself have to fly up, in 
order to carry a soul into the open emptiness up there. That is Les 
Baux. That was a castle, those were houses around it, not built, 
hollowed out of the limestone layers, as though people through 
obstinate will to dwell had there found room, as the drop that 
rolls first off the gutter pays no heed to where it falls and finally 
stays and dwells with its own kind. Those who in particular re- 
mained there were the first of that almost legendary race of the 
lords of Les Baux, which, with an eccentric in Naples in the seven- 
teenth century, went out uneasily, convulsively, smoking, like a 
candle-end that accumulates strange drippings. But from him who 
founded the house, in those old days, tradition came down to the 
last of them that he was the great-great-grandson of King Balthasar 
out of the Orient and the true progeny of the three holy kings. 
And the crazy old Marchese in Naples still used his sixteen-rayed 
star as a seal. 

From the hard bed of Les Baux this race arose after centuries of 
repose. Its fame had difficulty following it, and in the turbulence 
of the ascent the most brilliant names were left hanging on its 
crown. They became lords of seventy-nine cities and villages; 
they were counts of Avelin. viscounts of Marseilles, princes of 

Orange, and dukes of Andria and had hardly time to notice that 
(according to the title) they had become kings of Jerusalem. The 
reality of them is so fantastic that the troubadours give up invent- 
ing; they crowd to this court which they depict, and stimulated by 
their songs, the lords grow ever bolder and the women achieve 
the unparalleled beauty that became so great in Cecile des Baux 
around 1240 that in remotest regions they knew of her and con- 
curred in calling her Passe-Rose she who surpasses the roses. 
But in those days the first Giovanna, Queen of Naples, was the 
contested heiress of Provence; the family, now for, now against 
her, went on and on. It flung itself so high and wide that it never 
fell back to itself again. In Naples the court gnawed at it and the 
jealousy of the San Severini; it threw out only single wild shoots 
now, thorny shoots at the ends of which rebellions opened up, 
poisonous blossoms without desire for fruit, the smell of which 
made even the Emperor's head swim. But clinging and unspoiled 
as the fig tree, it got on better where it had fallen harder: in Dal- 
matia and Sardinia it grew robust dynasties. 

At Les Baux itself, however, only governors now sat, first of 
Provence, then of France, after the district had fallen to the King. 
All their names are known and one involuntarily retains those of 
the House of Manville, under whom protestantism established it- 
self in castle and city. Claude II of Manville was still protecting 
the Protestants when it had become dangerous to take their part: 
he kept a chapel for them in his palace. But already his successor 
was faced with the choice of leaving his religion or his post. He 
decided for the extreme renunciation, and with him all Protes- 
tants were driven from Les Baux. Now there were probably 
akeady Salomes among these banished souls: grandchildren or 
sons of the notary Andre Salome, who wrote his recollections 
under the first Manville governor; notebooks that may have been 
used since and that are now (I am assured) in the safekeeping of 
a notary at Mouries, Maitre Laville. 

Now you understand, dear Lou, at the end, the sense of my 
whole story, which has become so circumstantial. I was in Les 
Baux, for a day. The distant view from up there, of which the 

guide told me, I did not have: it is supposed to be infinitely large 
and beautifully spread out and to reach all the way to the sea and 
to the church tower of Saintes-Maries. But the near view was 
the grander the more the day grayed in and closed about it. I was 
soon rid of the custodian, the innkeeper too, after I had lunched. 
And from then on I went about just with a shepherd, who said 
little. We just stood side by side and both kept gazing at the 
place. The sheep grazed far apart on the sparse ground. But now 
and again, when they brushed against the sturdy weeds, the fra- 
grance of thyme came up and stayed awhile about us. 

n *o< 3 

To Clara Rilke Paris, November 3, 1909 (Wednesday) 

. . . last week I went to see Rodin, who is still doing his 
Americans and really has a series of good strong portraits there 
now. How good it is that he has to do people in whom Nature still 
keeps him very close to the job, so that he has to graze around 
near by, like a tightly tethered goat that has no choice farther 
afield. Now he has a phonograph. The Marquise winds it up, and 
the thing buzzes round in a circle. I was scared when I saw I was 
invited to hear it. But it was glorious; they have bought a few 
records of old Gregorian chants which nobody wants and which, 
outside of the dealer, only the Pope possesses. And when a castrato 
voice shrieked out, sobbed out a thirteenth or fourteenth century 
requiem, like a wind out of a joint in the world, one forgot all 
the absurdity of the instrument, all the stupid mechanical tones 
accompanying it, and even the Marquise who (said Rodin) "ouvre 
et ferme le robinet d'harmonie." He himself was magnificent, 
quite silent, quite closed and as before a great storm. He couldn't 
breathe for listening and only drew a little air in quickly when the 
violence of the voice relaxed for a few measures. I said when it 
was over: "Cest large comme le silence." That made him happy. 
"Rilke dit: Cest large comme le silence; c'est vrai . . ." he called 
to Mme. de Choiseul and looked quite serious and happy. Then 
there was singing again: howling out of the great funnel: "The 

35* _ 

people in hell," said Rodin, "are pushing someone forward, lift- 
ing him out over themselves so that he may say what it is like 
where they are," and it was just about like that too and continually 
renewed itself in the wailing: kept having fresh breaks out of 
which it issued like the sap of a branch. One felt after it as after 
hard work physically and in one's soul, as though one should now 
do one's utmost, the hardest of all. It then became apparent what 
the Marquise is there for: to lead slowly back down from the 
heights, by some path of blithe declivity. Perhaps Rodin really 
needs that now, someone like that to go down with him cautiously 
and rather like a child from all the peaks on which he is always 
getting himself. He used to stay up on top, and God knows how 
and where and through what sort of night he finally got back. 
Now, seeing him carried away so beyond his strength, one really 
felt something like fear for him, and annoyed though I was, I 
understood that the Marquise was putting on more and more 
stupid records and that we had finally arrived at a music-hall waltz- 
whistler; and then all the silly noises of the pinched needle really 
were audible, and the whole thing was fit to be, thrown out. But 
after that, through my carelessness there came another Gregorian 
song, a prodigious one; only in Russia have I heard anything like 
it; even the chants in the Armenian church were still newfangled 
and feeble beside that first unpremeditated music: I believe one 
could not endure even Beethoven right afterward. But to end 
now. I really must use only cards in future, otherwise I write as 
good rain rains: endlessly. Good-by, my dear. And do you too 
write only briefly, we each have so much else to do. ... 

To Elisabeth 

Baroness Schenk zu Schweinsberg 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

November 4, 1909 

Every time it is a joy for me to read you, and my first impulse 
is always to answer you immediately. And this time I shall really 
do so. 


You really must, by disposition, be a good painter; for even 
in writing you use for everything you have to say pure, strong 
primary colors, setting each so clear and sure beside the other. 
And then quite apart from painting: this ability to grasp the things 
of life unmixed and simple in the great primary tones seems to me 
a happy one in other respects; for one feels that every compre- 
hensive experience, like a crystal lens, must then reconstruct 
pure sunlight for you again out of all the details and set you down 
in the midst of its unity and warmth. 

This departure of your sister, of which you are feeling the 
effect, touches me more closely than you can know. Why people 
who love each other part before it is necessary? well: perhaps 
because at any moment this necessity may step forth and demand 
it. Because it is after all something so very provisional: to be to- 
gether and to love one another. Because behind it there really 
waits in everyone often admitted, often denied the remark- 
able certainty that everything that reaches out beyond a mean, 
beautiful but by nature incapable of transcending itself, must in- 
deed be received and borne and mastered entirely alone, as by an 
infinitely single (almost unique) individual. The hour of dying, 
which wrests this insight from everyone, is only one of our hours 
and not exceptional: Our being is continually undergoing and 
entering upon changes that are perhaps of no less intensity than 
the new, the next, and next again, that death brings with it. And 
just as at a certain point in that most striking of changes we must 
leave each other altogether, so we must, strictly speaking, at 
every moment give each other up and let each other go and not 
hold each other back. Does it appall you that I can write all this 
down like a person copying a sentence in a foreign language with- 
out knowing what most painful thing it means? That is because 
this fearful truth is probably at the same time also our most fruit- 
ful and most blessed. If one associates with it frequently, it loses 
indeed none of its hard sublimity (and if one laid oneself about it 
weeping, one would not warm and soften it) ; but trust in its 
sternness and difficulty increases every day, and all at once, as 
through clear tears, one seems to sense the distant insight that even 


as a lover one needs aloneness, that one suffers pain but not wrong 
when it overtakes and encloses one amid a rush of emotion toward 
a person beloved: yes, even that only by oneself, apart, can one 
fully develop and to a certain extent consummate this seemingly 
most shared experience that love is; if only because in the union 
of strong affections we generate a current of enjoyment which 
carries us away and finally casts us forth somewhere; while for him 
who is enclosed in his feeling, love becomes a daily work on him- 
self and a continual setting up of daring and generous demands 
on the other person. People who love each other thus call up 
about them endless dangers, but they are safe from the petty perils 
that have raveled and crumbled so many great beginnings of 
feeling. Since they are prone continually to wish and to expect 
from each other the ultimate, neither can do the other injustice 
through limitation; on the contrary, they perpetually generate 
space and distance and freedom for one another, just as in all ages 
the lover of God has for God cast forth fullness and power out of 
his own heart and established them in the depths of heaven. This 
illustrious Beloved has employed the prudent wisdom, yes (it can- 
not be misunderstandable to say it thus) the noble cunning never 
to show himself; so that the love of God could indeed, in indi- 
vidual ecstatic souls, lead to imaginary moments of enjoyment, 
and yet has remained, by the nature of it, wholly and entirely 
work, the hardest day labor and most difficult commission. 

But now measure against this love, against its grandeur and its 
harvest through the ages, every attempt at love that was less 
lonely, less desperate, if you will more satisfied: then (no longer 
frightened, no, indescribably assenting, at most in happy fright) 
you will admit that even between human beings only this most 
powerful love is justified, the only one that deserves the name. 
Is not only here does my circle finally close the presentiment 
of such insight perhaps the reason why people who love each 
other leave each other ? 

Forgive me, I too thought it would be an easy path, and now 
I have suddenly taken you up with me into high mountains where 
it is cold and brilliant and without familiar vegetation . But you 


had asked, and I had to climb so far in order to show you my an- 
swer in the context in which alone it does not look comfortless, 
but (you do feel it) good, or simply existing beyond all judg- 
ment, as Nature exists, who does not want to understand and yet 
supports us and helps us. 

On the other hand, there is something else I do not know. Do 
you know it? How someone, a young man, a young girl, can go 
away to care for sick strangers? I would like to admire this very 
much, and I feel that one cannot possibly admire it enough. But 
in this conviction something disturbs me, like uneasiness, that our 
time should have become guilty of such incongruous resolves; 
isn't there* something disintegrating in it which deprives many 
great-willed powers of their natural points of attack? You see, 
this affects me exactly like the circumstance that all the greatest 
paintings and works of art are now in museums and no longer 
belong to anyone. It is said, to be sure, that there they belong to 
everyone. But I cannot get used to all this generality; I shall never 
be able to believe it. Is everything that is most valuable to pass 
into the general like that? It is, I can't help it, as if one were to 
open a flacon of rose oil out of doors and leave it open: certainly 
its strength is somewhere in the atmosphere but so dispersed and 
diluted that this heaviest of perfumes must really be counted as 
lost to our senses. I don't know whether you understand what 
I mean. 

Rodin, of whom you are thinking, often comes to me for an 
hour and then that is naturally always a very beautiful one. 
Nevertheless his face would not at first glance make you as un- 
equivocally happy as even two years ago: it is sometimes tired 
now; it even has constellations of sadness which I didn't know in 
him. With this the superb life-mask becomes certainly no less 
great, but it does become how shall I express it? more tragic, 
in the sense of that antique conception of the tragic whose domain 
encompassed even gods and heavenS, but which nevertheless 
closed at last in the terrestrial, as a circle whose nature and eternity 
it is to find no way out of itself. 

For you I picture it as fine that you sometimes see our Capri 

356 _ 

priest (I can say but not write his name) and so can feel pulsating 
across to you the vibrations of an existence serious and bent on the 
profound. He has probably always been rich in inner develop- 
ment, even in those days on Capri, and people like that, who go 
about in themselves sincerely, cannot disappoint. He certainly 
would not have written a book had he not felt it would be a 
necessary and good one; one that it would have been impossible 
for him not to write. So now it is there and has reality. When it 
will get among people is not important in comparison. That un- 
suppressible books are made, that they are in existence, that one 
can no longer consider them mere imaginings: that always seems 
to me the decisive point. 

But now, as after an indiscreetly long-protracted visit, I must 
say the shortest farewell to you; forgive me for letting myself 
go to so much writing; weeks may easily come again when I must 
deny myself letters even those I like to write and if this one 
is too much for you in one swallow, put it aside and partake of it 
as if it were arriving little by little. . . . 

To Clara Rilke [Paris, November 19, 1909] 

. . . for this Sunday, which is called November 21, I really 
must write you a little letter. . . . 

Well then, many affectionate wishes: that you may begin a 
good year of your own, one still so young, it seems to me, when 
I think of other people: most of them, all those one can think 
of and that come to mind, are old now and as if they had always 
been; I know none at all younger than you and Ruth. 

Paris you would recognize very, very easily as it looks now: 
with a sudden yellow sun between seven-thirty and eight-thirty 
and from there on grayer and grayer, gray seen against gray and 
gray through gray. I just took a quick walk to the big boulevards, 
as long as the skies had not quite closed: it was indescribably 
beautiful; the city-statues at the far corners of the Place de la 
Concorde gave off medium tones between the fine brightness of 


objects and of space and the bronze centers of the two fountains, 
in which the shallow water moved in little wrinkly folds, to feel 
itself again before freezing over. The stone horses rearing up at 
each other at the entrance of the Tuileries Gardens looked heavy 
and wintry under so much opaque sky, and the trees behind them 
already had the violet overtone of a winter day. To the right on 
the "Strasbourg" the wreaths and piles of flowers took on re- 
markable lightnesses and darknesses that were no longer colors, 
and the tricolor of the little flags was now like no more than the 
just-made discovery of three new grays, the extreme of what, in 
three different directions, could be achieved in gray. The Avenue 
des Champs-Elysees flowed slowly and uncertainly toward the 
square, and if one faced about, one saw behind, as the last thing 
in the indefiniteness, the golden chargers of the Pont Alexandre III 
flinging open their wings. 

This is the text, my dear Clara, to the melody of the few flowers 
I sent you yesterday; they come not from this region but from 
the neighborhood of the vegetarian restaurant, from among those 
one looks at every day in passing: but they are the ones now to be 
seen in all florists' windows, with the exception of the few plate- 
glass panes of the rue Royale behind which seasonless roses and 
spotted orchid specimens display themselves. 

Among the vegetarians, practically everything is unchanged; 
the handsome Spaniard or Italian now and then brings com- 
patriots worth seeing and otherwise, deep in the "Matin/' follows 
his special regime. The monsieur was for a long time silent and 
ate reading, but yesterday he reopened his communicativeness 
and overflowed with sheer knowledge; among other things, he 
said: "La Theosophie c'est une mangeuse d'hommes," and ex- 
plained that in detail to the girl who listened with her round, dark 
eyes and very hot face. You see, this too you would recognize at 
first glance. 

The brown woman with the crutch sends you her greetings 
and M. Rudier wants to be remembered to you; at a street cross- 
ing recently, sheer fate drove me to a cab from which he un- 
expectedly held out his hand to me from the reins. So, now you 


have for your birthday as much familiar Paris as I can muster. 
Good-by . . . have a fine day of good, confident thoughts and 
dear memories. 

C 2 9 3 

To Georg Brandes 77 rue de Varenne, Paris 

November 28, 1909, Sunday 

. . . since receiving your letter, I have been turning over in 
my mind how I could contribute something to the spiritual short- 
ening of your hospital days. Today at last something occurs to 
me: it is unfortunately just another book, and a sad one at that, 
but it is of such excellent craftsmanship that it can nevertheless 
be somehow gladdening. 

I read very little, and so I do not know whether the impression 
I got from Gide's Porte fctroite is dependent very much upon my 
state of mind, upon the reading having been an opportune excep- 
tion, finally upon a certain natural affinity (on account of which 
a close acquaintance brought the book to my house) . But I shall 
be much mistaken if the book with its intimate precision does not 
give you even more pleasure than it did me, since your reading 
ability will doubtless reveal to you subtleties that eluded my spell- 
ing out. Gide's means, which I had a chance to admire here for 
the first time, have remarkable command of the world he sets up; 
they fulfill his intentions it seems to me completely, and from 
this there results a finely ramified assurance which nourishes the 
book calmly and as it were vegetatively, even to its incommensur- 
able borders. Also one has only to imagine how one-sidedly 
Rodenbach, say, would have developed this conflict, in order to 
watch with delight the greater artist who, behind the aberration, 
the pathology, the fate of the individual case, allows one again 
and again to discern the very great task of love, which none of us 
has been able to accomplish. 

I go so far as to conjecture that this book somehow steps out of 
the rotation of the French conception of love and, under the in- 
fluence of a deeper force of gravity, attempts a new curve of its 


own into the open. But my very insignificant reading background 
makes me incompetent there. (Wouldn't Kierkegaard have recog- 
nized these journals and held them in honor?) . . . 

To Anton Kippenberg Hotel de Russie, Rome 

Good Friday [1910] 

When I reflect, my dear Dr. Kippenberg, how necessary your 
Sundays are to you after the long week, I am touched that, after 
your dictation of the nineteenth, you have written this letter 
besides in which I recognize all the goodness that is at home 
wherever you are. 

It was a real satisfaction for me to read your kind pages. When 
one has been extremely well off for a time, as I was with you, the 
indifferent strangeness of strange places is hard to understand; I 
was spoiled, I notice. But the next stage is to discover the supplies 
of strength and joy that have been stored up in one through 
being spoiled like that; for this I am now waiting patiently, it will 
not delay, and when it gets to that point, occasion enough appears 
here to enjoy and exert oneself. 

I am not very well in the first place, probably forgot too that I 
should be coming to such a full Rome; even the beautiful Hotel 
de Russie, which I remembered pleasantly from a few lonely 
summer days, is now just a loud mass of lodgings, with music and 
other racket, and all other places are overfull wherever one in- 
quires; there are even emergency beds in the bathrooms, it is a 
disgrace, and all of it for nothing, for none of these many too 
many travelers sees anything, believes in what he sees, or in any 
way needs it. 

Forgive the mood in which I have let myself go. There is an- 
other beneath it, which just hasn't found expression yet and which 
is all admiration. The parks, the fountains, what one remembers 
of it all, much as one may often exaggerate it in hankering after 
it, is nothing, nothing compared to their totally incommen- 
surable existence. Perhaps too I have made some further progress 


in observing, as everything overwhelms me so; but, I keep think- 
ing, how old one must become in order really sufficiently to 
marvel, to remain nowhere behind the world; how much one 
still undervalues, overlooks, misconstrues. Heavens, how many 
opportunities and examples for becoming something, and over 
against them, how much laziness, distraction, and half-will on 
our side. A lament, a lament . 

Yesterday I sent back the end of the Make Laurids proofs 
(galleys), registered too (the earlier sheets, likewise, on the 
twenty-second). It was singularly difficult to go through this 
book with that object: I felt as sadly tickled as the fool of Charles 
the Bold when he sits and sees how they are verifying the coarse 
externals of his master's body. The page proof, which is here up 
to page 128, I shall leaf through easily, with an eye to certain 
passages and as one reads a book, and from there on rely on a kind 
Providence for everything to go through without disturbing 
errors. I am so very glad to see by this page proof how excellent 
and appropriate everything now appears on the small pages; it 
pleases you too, doesn't it, we really couldn't have chosen better, 
whichever page one looks at: it is a book, as though it had long 
been one, had never been anything else. Please, let me indicate 
in the page proof where the first volume should end; determine 
it yourself if possible, or, in case of doubt, give me two places to 
choose from. 

You see, I am writing business in between the other like this 
for lack of inner order; actually I ought to write several times 
how much I wish that the mistress of the house and of the Insel 
may recover quickly from the irksome influenza, so often does 
this wish come up new and strong in me as I write. . . . 

My wife seems to have something of a cold too, according to 
the latest news; but she has begun to read Make Laurids and 
writes more of that than of her health and her circumstances. It 
is very fine the way she takes him from the start as an individual 
and accepts him and motivates his existence from away back. You 
two, dear friends, and this first reader: Make Laurids is not 

doing badly, he is being taken thoroughly to heart. I am becom- 
ing downright eager too and impatient to face him entirely as a 
reader. Much will go on taking shape in me now, I think; for 
these journals are something like an underpinning, everything 
reaches farther up, has more space around it, as soon as one can 
rely on this new higher ground. Now everything can really 
begin for fair. Poor Make starts so deep in misery and, in a strict 
sense, reaches to eternal bliss; he is a heart that strikes a whole 
octave: after him almost all songs are possible. . . . 

There would be still much to write, dear friend. But it is cold, 
I have an east room which gets just a little faint sun of a morning 
in passing^ and over there, beyond the afternoon wind, the hill- 
side now lies in full sun: I must go warm myself. . . . 


To Countess Manon zu Solms-Laubacb Hotel de Russie 

Rome, April n, 1910 

This is only to catch up, but still you must know how much I 
enjoyed your kind letter of January 23. It reached me in Berlin, 
where (you will remember) I never like being; among the things 
that come together on such rare visits, there are always some that 
are warm, good, yes, quite indispensable: I don't want to com- 
plain. But there are always too many then for me (who am adher- 
ing more and more to an aloof and solitary life), and Berlin 
hasn't the way of feeding one things one after the other; one gets 
everything thrown into one's house at once, one is supposed to 
see and accomplish everything without coming to one's senses; 
it is assumed that one has a freshness, an uninterrupted capability, 
a prompt presence of mind, which I can muster only occasionally 
and only way inside for my work. So in Berlin I always fare like 
a bad schoolboy who is behind in everything and ends by no 
longer grasping from his place of punishment what is going on 
at the blackboard. 

Think how in such days your letter was bound to give me 
double pleasure; with it I could keep step, I became positively 
peaceful and happy over it. 

For it too was happy. I read in and between the lines how much 
your beautiful work, which deals with so much reality, future, 
and life, is affording you joy and inner progress. On the whole 
I really don't believe it is important to be happy in the sense in 
which people expect it, but I can so infinitely understand this 
laborious happiness which lies in arousing by some determined 
work powers that themselves begin to work upon one. For any- 
one who conceives the task that now fills you in such a way as to 
experience this in the process, it must become boundlessly fruitful 
and joyful. 

Beside these best tidings of you it was your interest in Make 
Laurids Brigge and in me that did me so much good. The Note- 
books are now concluded, I was in Germany on their account, 
we are in the process of printing them. Make Laurids has, since 
you have not been hearing of him, developed into a figure which, 
quite detached from me, acquired existence and personality, and 
interested me the more intensely the more differentiated it be- 
came from myself. I do not know how far one will be able to 
deduce a whole existence from the papers. What this imaginary 
young man inwardly underwent (through Paris and through his 
memories reanimated by Paris), led so far in all directions: more 
and more journals could have been added; what now constitutes 
the book is by no means anything complete. It is only as if one 
found disordered papers in a drawer and just happened for the 
present to find no more and had to be content. That, viewed 
artistically, is a poor unity, but humanly it is possible, and what 
arises behind it is nevertheless the sketch of an existence and a 
shadow-network of forces astir. The moving figure of Countess 
Julie Reventlow is mentioned only in the passage you know, 
and, quite cursorily, once again. Make Laurids has inspired me 
with the desire to know more of her (than he knew). You cer- 
tainly know the "Letters of the Reventlow Family Circle" pub- 
lished by Bobe (Danish), in which she is spoken of and which 

also contain a reproduction of a very beautiful portrait of the 
Countess in her youth. In the seven or eight volumes of this work 
that have come out so far there are no letters in her own hand, 
but one more volume is in prospect which will perhaps bring 
some. It must mean a great deal, to have known her. , . . 

To Marietta 

Baroness von Nordeck zur Rabenau Hotel de Russie, Rome 

April 14, 1910 

If it is in any way possible: put generosity to the test: forgive 
me for letting so much time go by over your kind letter, draw 
no conclusions from its having happened. I constantly wanted 
to thank you for your affectionate remembrance and for your 
not giving me up and for making me secure in the conviction that 
I may be allowed to read you again and again. I wish very much 
that from time to time a meeting might come about, friendly and 
delightful, as the one in Paris was, of which I often think. Your 
letter, which made the trip to Paris, finally found me almost in 
your neighborhood, in Leipzig; I shall tell you in a moment what 
took me there and in the end kept me quite long in Germany, but 
first let me go into your news: on the whole it is good, even 
though this wish and that (like the work with your violin in 
Paris) remains outside and unrealized . I would almost like to 
say, do not drown it out too much with the noise of sociability, 
there is no harm if it goes on growing and becomes stronger and 
stronger. Often it is so with me that I ask myself whether fulfill- 
ment really has anything to do with wishes. Yes, as long as the 
wish is weak, it is like a half and needs to be fulfilled like a second 
half, in order to be something independent. But wishes can grow 
so wonderfully into something whole, full, sound, that permits 
of no further completion whatever, that goes on growing only 
out of itself and forms and fills itself. Sometimes one could be- 
lieve that just this had been the cause of the greatness and intensity 
of a life, that it engaged in too great wishes, which from within 

drove forth effect after effect into life, as a spring does action 
upon action, and which scarcely knew any longer for what they 
were originally tensed, and only in an elementary way, like some 
falling force of water, transposed themselves into activity and 
warmth, into immediate existence, into cheerful courage, accord- 
ing as the event and the occasion geared them in. I know that I 
am taking your little intimation much too importantly and pon- 
derously by loading it with so many words; it vanishes altogether 
beneath them; but this as an insight had somehow matured in me 
(perhaps in the reading of the saints' lives, with which I am much 
occupied, again and again), and I could not resist the little im- 
pulse to express what was somehow ready. You will know of 
course that it was not meant so pretentiously and seriously as it 
looks here, . . . 

What kept me in Germany (Leipzig and Berlin especially) 
from the beginning of January until a few weeks ago was the 
final editing of a new book, the Notebooks of that young Dane, 
of which I must surely have spoken to you in Capri. They have 
finally come to a kind of conclusion, they are being printed now, 
there too life is going on. And here, about me, is Rome (which 
greets you), Rome which is having its blossom time, with full 
hanging wisteria, with thousands of new roses daily, with all its 
beautiful fountains that are like eternal life, serenely new, with- 
out age, without exhaustion. . . . 


Rilke was born in Prague, December 4, 1875, and died at 
Valmont, near Glion, Switzerland, December 29, 1926. 

G.W. stands for Gesammelte Werke (1927), the six-volume standard edi- 
tion of collected works; A.W. for Amgewahlte Werke (1938), the two- 
volume edition of selected works; B.zt.T. for Brief e und Tagebucher, 1899- 
1902 (1931), the volume of early letters and diaries; B.V. for Brief e an 
seinen Verleger (1934), the volume of letters to his publisher, all published 
by Insel-Verlag, Leipzig, in the years indicated. 

(The number in brackets is that of the letter, the page number that of the 
page on which the reference occurs.) 

[i] p. 17 Franz Keim: Austrian poet (1840-1918), who had been a 
teacher at the local high school in St. Polten during Rilke's 
days at the military school there, and to whom Rilke had 
now sent some poems for criticism. The stanza 
Es sei, so wahnen edle Menschenkenner, 
Oft ein Genie dem Untergang geweiht. 
Nein! Schafft die Zek sich keine grossen Manner, 
So schafft der Mann sich eine grosse Zeit! 
was published in Rilke's first volume of poetry, Life and 
Songs, 1894, most of the poems in which had by now been 
written under the title "Fragment" (Splitter) and with "sup- 
pose" (wahnen) altered to "complain" (klagen). 

[2] p. 17 Rilke met Valery David-Rhonfeld, the daughter of an Aus- 
trian officer, in 1892. She was eccentric and Bohemian, with 
her red Empire gown and white shepherd's crook, her vase 
painting and short-story writing. Though she was older than 
Rene they became engaged, remaining so until 1895. It is 
difficult to judge the importance of the relationship to Rilke, 
but this letter suggests that she moved him deeply at first. 
She herself, however, seems merely to have played along 
with him, until he slipped away and finally eluded her alto- 
gether, whereupoa she became greatly piqued: her bitter 
reminiscences, published after his death (C Hirschfeld, "Die 
Riike-Erinncrungen Valery von David-Rhonfelds," in Die 
Horen, Berlin, 1918-29, VIII, 714 ff.), picture Rene as an 
unlovely and pathetir youth incapable of appreciating her 
generous pity and love. But the fact remains that she was the 
first to give him at least a measure of much needed sympathy 
and encouragement, and Life and Songs (see notes to [i] 
and [9]) is dedicated to her. This letter, not in either edi- 


tion of the Letters, was published in Paul Leppin's brief 
article, "Der neunzehnjahrige Rilke," (Die Liter atur, Au- 
gust, 1927). 

p. 1 8 Tante G.: Since his mother had moved to Vienna and his 
father's quarters in Prague were too small to house him, Rilke 
lived (until 1896) with his aunt (his father's sister) Gabriele 
von Kutschera-Woborsky. 

my frustrated childhood: [7] and [44] contain further ac- 
counts of these early years and of Rilke 's parents, Joseph and 
Phia (Sophia) Rilke. (Cf. also the chronicle section in Let- 
ters to a Young Poet, W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., New 
York, 1934.) 

Primary School of the Piarists: in Prague. 

Baumgarten: a park in Prague. Presumably Rilke acquiesced 
in his father's plan for a military career. 

p. 19 the new phase of my young life: From 1886-90 Rilke at- 
tended the military school at St. Polten and its senior branch 
at Mahrisch-Weisskirchen, a training for which he was ob- 
viously unfitted. He often referred to this time as the worst 
of his life; for a while he planned to pour all its fears and 
agonies into a military novel, in order to free himself of 
them, but never got beyond a few sketches, though as late 
as 1920 he wrote one of his old masters that he would never 
have been able to live his life had he not suppressed all mem- 
ory of these years. Cf. [7] and [44]. 

in my childish mind . . . : Rilke's mother, in her unbalanced 
religious fanatacism, would have the child kiss the wounds 
of Christ on the crucifix. 

p. 20 the urge to write: A few of Rilke's early literary efforts have 
been preserved in the Rilke Archive at Weimar. His mother 
seems, if only out of vanity, to have encouraged his childish 
attempts at painting and composing heroic tales and verses, 
though his father would reprimand her for fostering such 
effeminate pastimes. 

"The war horse rears . . . ": a line from The Maid of Or- 
leans (Prologue, scene 4) often cited as an example of Schil- 
ler's rhetoric. 

p. 21 bitter disillusionment^ and errors: Rilke's attendance at the 
commercial school in Linz (winter 1891-92) ended with an 
amorous escapade with a governess. 

the period of study: Thanks to the financial assistance of his 
Uncle Jaroslav Rilke, Ritter von Riiliken, who was anxious 

that his family's only surviving male member of the younger 
generation should make something of himself, Rilke pre- 
pared (1892-95) for the University of Prague by a course of 
private lessons with examinations at the end of each semester. 

p. 22 panicka: Czech for "little lady.*' 

Rene: Rilke's parents, never reconciled to the loss of their 
first child, a little girl, had christened him Rene, and not 
until 1897 did he begin using Rainer, the name by which Lou 
Andreas-Salome (cf. note to [8]) called him because she 
thought it more fitting than a French name for a poet whose 
language was German. 

[3] p. 23 Rilke had passed his entrance examinations in July and was 
now studying at the University. He had been reading Urania 
by Camille Flammarion, the French astronomer (in the trans- 
lation of Carl Wenzel, 1894), and now wrote Dr. Bauschinger 
(1860-?), author of many books on astronomy and director 
of, among others, the observatories at Strasbourg and Leip- 
zig, to ask his opinion of the book. 

[4] p. 23 Bodo Wildberg: Rilke's collaborator for the third and last 
number of Wild Chicory (see note to [9]), pamphlets con- 
taining "songs, given to the people," published at Rilke's 
expense and left in hospitals, workers' clubs, etc. as a free 
gift. "For the poor everything is too expensive," read the 
preface,". . . So if you would give to everyone then give!" 

Thiel: Peter Thiel (1870- ), author of Des Schicksals 

[5] p. 24 Cf. the stanza from "In Dubiis" in Offerings to the Lares 
(p. 65; see note to [9]): 

Der erscheint mir als der He appears to me the greatest 


der zu keiner Fahne schwort, who pledges himself to no flag, 

und, weil er vorn Teil sich and, because he detached him- 

loste, self from the part, 

nun der ganzen Welt gehort. now belongs to the whole 


[6] p. 25 In the fall of 1896, Rilke had left Prague to continue his 
studies in Munich. 

Baron Karl Du Prel: (1839-99), prolific philosophical writer, 
zealous investigator of the occult and a spiritualist, who main- 
tained that man is a dual being whose second self appears 
in somnambulistic states and reaches into the Beyond. 


p. 25 "Visions of Christ": These ("Christusvisionen") were not 
brought out as Rilke expected and have never been pub- 
lished. The manuscript is in the Rilke Archive in Weimar. 

[7] p. 26 Ludwig Ganghofer: novelist (1855-1920) noted for his por- 
trayal of Bavarian peasant life. 

military institution: For biographical details in this letter cf. 
[2] and [44] and notes. 

[8] p. 28 Frieda von Billow: Rilke had met Baroness von Billow, the 
novelist (1857-1909), known for her association with Ger- 
man East Africa and the work of Karl Peters, one of its 
founders, through Lou Andreas-Salome. 

We are reading . . . : Rilke was spending July and August 
at Wolfratshausen near Munich with Lou Andreas-Salome, 
her husband, and the art-historian Endell. Frieda von Billow 
had joined them for a time. 

Lou Andreas-Salome (1861-1937), whom Rilke had met in 
Munich, was to become his closest life-long friend. A Russian 
by birth, and herself a writer, she is probably best known for 
the role she played in Nietzsche's life many years before her 
meeting with Rilke. Her husband, Professor Andreas, oc- 
cupied the chair of Oriental languages at Gottingen. 
That the Italian Renaissance kindled Rilke's imagination is 
evident from many sketches and stories among his early writ- 

p. 29 Botticelli: cf. The Book of Hours (Das Stundenbuch, G.W. 
II, 196; A.W. I, 26). 

So hat man sie gemalt; vor Thus they painted her; one 

allem eincr above all, 

der seine Sehnsucht aus der who bore his longing out of 

Sonne trug. the sun. 

Ihm reifte sie aus alien Ratseln For him she ripened out of all 

reiner, riddles purer, 

aber im Leiden immer allge- yet in suffering more universal 

meiner: always: 

sein ganzes Leben war er wie his whole life he was like a 

ein Weiner, weeper 

dem sich das Weinen in die whose weeping thrust itself 

Hande schlug. into his hands. 

Er ist der schonste Schleier He is the fairest veil of her 

ihrer Schmerzen, sorrows, 

der sich an ihre wehen Lippen gently pressing against her 

schmiegt, wounded lips, 

sich iiber ihnen fast zum curving over them almost to 

Lacheln biegt a smile 

und von dem Licht aus sieben and the light from seven angel 

En^elkerzen candles 

wird sein Geheimnis nicht be- is not victorious over his se- 

siegt. cret. 

[9] p. 29 In the autumn of 1897 Lou moved to Berlin; Rilke followed 
her, to continue his studies at the University of Berlin, living 
in a furnished room in Wilmersdorf, "Im Rheingau 8, III." 

Adolf Bonz: the Stuttgart publisher who brought out two of 
Rilke's early short-story collections, On Life's Way (Am 
Leben Hin), 1898, and T<wo Tales of Prague (Z<wei Prager 
Geschichten), 1899, both now in Erzdhlungen und Skizzen 
aus der Fruhzeit, Insel-Verlag, 1928. 

p. 30 Seven sketchbooks: in part preserved in the Rilke Archive. 

" Rilke's poetry thus far published in book form: Life and 
Songs (Leben und Lie der, Strasbourg and Leipzig, G. L. Kat- 
tentidt, Jung Deutschlands Verlag, 1894, not reprinted), cf. 
note to [2]; Wild Chicory (Wegwarten, published by the 
author, Prag, 1896; three issues, not reprinted), cf. note to 
W; Offerings to the Lares (Larenopfer y Prag, Verlag von H. 
Dominicus (Th. Gruss), 1896; now G.W. I, 9-102); Dream- 
er owned (Traumgekront, Leipzig, P. Friesenhahn, 1897; 
now G.W. I, 103-160). 

p. 31 Days of Celebration (Feiertage): no such book was pub- 
lished. This is probably the collection known as Advent 
(Leipzig, P. Friesenhahn, 1898; now G.W. I, 161-251). 

[10] p. 31 From April to June, 1899, Rilke was in Russia with Lou and 
Professor Andreas. They met many eminent Russians, in- 
cluding Tolstoy. 

Meiningen: Rilke expected to visit Frieda von Billow at the 
von Bibra villa on the Bibersberg, a summerhouse of the 
former Princess Marie of Meiningen, which had been put at 
her disposal. 

Florentine spring: the preceding April (1898), which Rilke 
had spent in Florence. 

p. 32 The Iberian Madonna (or Virgin of Iberia): an ikon in the 
Iberian Chapel in Moscow, a copy of the original in the 
Iberian monastery on Mt. Athos in Greece. The reproduc- 
tion, solemnly executed in 1648 with prayer and fasting by 
the monks and presented to Czar Alexis Mikailovitch, was 
borne through the streets of Moscow almost every day, until 
recent times, in a carriage drawn by six horses, the people 
bowing low as it passed. (Cf. Stories of God, G.W. IV, 102.) 

[n] p. 32 Rilke had now returned to his studies in Berlin, living this 
time at Schmargendorf, just outside the city. 

The Bibersberg days: The visit, with Lou, to Meiningen (see 
note to [10]) had lasted from the end of July till September 
' 12. Of it Frieda von Biilow wrote: "Of Lou and Rainer I have 
had extremely little during this six-weeks visit. After the 
longish Russian trip they took (incl. Loumann [Lou's hus- 
band]), they had dedicated themselves body and soul to the 
study of Russian and were learning with phenomenal in- 
dustry all day long: language, literature, art history, political 
history, cultural history of Russia, as if they had to prepare 
for a fearful examination. When we met at meal time, they 
were so exhausted and tired that stimulating conversation 
could no longer be managed." 

[12] p. 33 Rilke probably met Sofia Nikolaevna Schill of Moscow, who 
wrote under the pen name of Sergei Orlowski, on his first 
trip to Russia. 

the Chaika: Chekhov's Seagull. Rilke was anxious to make 
Chekhov's work known in Germany. He was planning a 
translation of Uncle Vanya as well, and had even interested 
a publisher. Nothing came of it, which may have been due 
to his own loss of interest, and neither translation is extant. 

C*3l P 34 Tretiakov Gallery: of Russian paintings, in Moscow. Rilke 
also planned a series of monographs on such painters as 
Ivanov (1806-58) and Kramskoi (1837-87). 

[14] p. 37 From May to August, 1900, Rilke and Lou (see note to 
[8 J ) were again in Russia. 

[15] p. 39 In a conversation with Maurice Betz in 1925, Rilke described 
this second meeting with Tolstoy rather differently, indi- 
cating that the occasion may have been less comfortable 
than he was willing to admit, even to himself, at the time. 
There seems to have been considerable lack of enthusiasm 
not only in the Countess' reception but in the Count's as well. 

Professor Pasternak: Leonid Pasternak (1862-1945), painter 
and professor at the Moscow Art School, through whom 
Rilke had met Tolstoy on his first visit to Russia. 

Yasnaia: Yasnaia Poliana, Tolstoy's estate. 

[16] p. 42 In August, 1900, on his return from Russia, Rilke paid a visit 
to Heinrich Vogeler, the painter (whom he had met in Flor- 
ence in 1898), at the artist colony at Worpswede, near 
Bremen, and was so enthralled by the colorful countryside of 

moors and canals, and by the high seriousness and stimulating 
personalities of the artists, that he rented a little house there 
for the coming winter. He felt he could learn much from 
these painters about "looking" (see Introduction), much 
that could contribute to his poetry and enhance his awareness 
of life. The published portion of his diary contains the best 
available account of his Worpswede impressions. It records 
many conversations and vividly describes Sunday evening 
gatherings when talk was lively, there was sometimes sing- 
ing, and he himself was often asked to read from his poems. 
Here also he met the young sculptress, Clara Westhoff, who 
was to become his wife. She was about to go to Paris to 
study with Rodin. On the evening of October first, 1900, 
when he and Vogeler had been at her studio, Clara described 
to Rilke this modeling of her grandmother, as he noted in 
'his diary for October third (B.u.T., 365-367). 

p. 45 Before what little figure . . . : The diary also makes sev- 
eral allusions to the figures of children Clara was modeling. 

[17] p. 45 Paula (Modersohn-) Becker, the painter (1876-1907), was 
an intimate friend of Clara and Rilke. Her work, now re- 
garded by some as the most significant to have come out of 
Worpswede, had as yet achieved little recognition. She mar- 
ried the painter Otto Modersohn in 1901, studied painting 
in Paris, and died in childbirth, November 21, 1907. Her 
death, which Rilke felt deeply, was the occasion for the 
"Requiem for a Friend" ("Requiem," Insel-Verlag, 1909; 
now G.W. II, 323-333; A.W. I, 191-201; an English transla- 
tion in Rainer Maria Rilke: Requiem and Other Poems by 
J. B. Leishman, Hogarth Press, London, 1935). Cf. also [202] 
and note. 

[19] p. 48 evening pages: Otto Modersohn later wrote (in Rainer Maria 
Rilke: Stimmen der Freunde, the' little memorial volume 
edited by Gert Buchheit, Urban- Verlag, Freiburg, 1931), 
"At that time in Worpswede, filled with inner visions, I was 
wont, especially on winter evenings, to give free rein to my 
reveries with crayon and red chalk on little sheets of paper." 
He later presented Rilke with several of these sketches. 

[21] p. 51 Heinrich von Kleist: the great dramatic poet (1777-1811), 
* who shot himself and his incurably ill friend Frau Vogel 
on November 21, 1811. Rilke describes (to Princess Marie 
of Thurn and Taxis, December 27, 1913), how as a young 
man he liked to go out to Kleist's grave on the Wannsee, 
and quotes the first verse of a poem he wrote there in his 
notebook on January 14, 1898: 

Wir sind keiner klarer oder None of us is clearer or more 

blinder, blind, 

wir sind alle Suchende, du all of us are seekers, as you 

weisst, know, 

und so wurdest du vielleicht and so you became perhaps the 

der Finder, finder, 

ungeduldiger und dunkler impatient and dark Kleist . . . 

Kleist ... 

"Heavens," he adds, "I knew little about him and was think- 
ing of his death, that strange one, because I only understood 
the strange, but now I am thinking of his life, because I am 
slowly beginning to have a conception of the beautiful and 
of the great, so that soon death will concern me no more." 

[22] p. 51 On September 27, Rilke noted in his diary (B.u.T., 348-350) 
a similar description Clara had given him of her first winter 
at her family's summer home in Oberneuland, continuing: 
"... she said I would recognize it as a happy advance that 
there are no longer behind us joyous and sad backgrounds 
that alternate with indifferent regularity with the seasons. 
That we see sad springs and blissful autumn days full of over- 
flow and joy, that summer days can be heavy and desolate 
and limitless, and that winter can touch us in our feeling like 
the ringing of a triangle, like silver on damask, like roses on 
a girl's neck . . . This enables us to live along more peace- 
fully and in deeper understanding with Nature, that is, more 
spontaneously. When behind our sadness a shimmering 
spring flickers and moves in high clouds, then our sadness 
will be more moving, and great is our crimson feeling when 
it fashions garlands for itself of falling leaves and exhausts all 
the colors of October, detached from the meaning they have 
in their dying." 

[23] p. 53 Paula Becker's journals: Brief e und Tagebuchblatter von 
Paula Modersohn-Becker (Berlin; edition of 1920). 

p. 54 Maria Bashkirtseff: Marie Bashkirtseva (1860-84), tne gifted 
Russian writer and painter, who died at 24. Her journal 
(Journal de Marie Bashkirtseff) was first published in 1890. 

p. 55 my Stories of God: Vom Lieben Gott und Anderes, an 
Grosse fur Kinder erza'hlt, Christmas, 1900; republished in 
1904 and in subsequent editions as Gescbichten vom Lieben 
Gott (English translation by M. D. Herter Norton and Nora 
Purtscher-Wydenbruck, W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1932. 
Cf. note to [32]). 

Dante's brow above the lily: Rilke describes (B.B.T., 304) 
a corner of Paula's studio in which hung a mask of Dante; 


against a pile of sketches rested a guitar, in front of this a 
lily bloomed. He often calls Paula's studio the "lily studio." 

p. 56 "first twenty years": Paula speaks in her journals [p. 62] of 
feeling, after reading Marie Bashkirtseva's journal, that she 
has idled away (verbummelt) her first twenty years. 

the Schlachtensee: a lake outside Berlin, where Paula spent 
some time wkh relatives. Her journals record (pp. 128-130) 
a kind of symbolic vision in which she sees eyes looking at 
her out of a gray veil suspended between lake and sky. These 
are the "eyes of longing," and when one looks into them one 
forgets everything in life but the "wish of one's heart" (here 
her love for Otto Modersohn, to whom she was not yet 
married). She shudders as she feels the thrall of this longing, 
but the sun cries out to her "Go home to your house and 
create. Think of the people who live about you and love 
you. And you will recover." She hurls her "dearest wish" 
into the lake and goes home to create. This vision takes on 
significance in view of Paula's inability to reconcile her art 
with her marriage. (Cf. note to [17]; also [202] and note.) 

[24] p. 56 In April, 1901, Rilke and Clara Westhoff were married, set- 
tling in a little house in Westerwede near Worpswede. 

Emanuel von Bodman: South German poet (1874- ), with 
whom Rilke had become acquainted in Munich in 1897. 

p. 57 laws which never fail to operate: cf. in the "Book of Pil- 
grimage" (The Book of Hours, G.W. II, 245), written in 
Westerwede a month later: 

Wenn etwas mir vom Fenster When I let something fall 

fallt from the window 

(und wenn es auch das Klein- (though it may be the smallest 

stc ware), thing), 

wie sttirzt sich das Gesetz der how the law of gravity hurls 

Schwere itself, 

gewaltig wie ein Wind vom violent as a wind from the sea, 


auf jeden Ball und jede Becre on every ball and every berry 

und tragt sie in den Kern der and bears it into the world s 

Welt. core. 

[25] p. 58 Helmuth Westhoff: Clara's young brother, who was to be- 
come a painter. 

a dear friend, a painter: "Peacockfeather," published in Ad- 
vent, 1898 (G.W. I, 172), was dedicated to Emil Orlik, a 
friend of Rilke's youth. 


[26] p. 61 Gustav Th. Pauli: (1866-1939), art historian, director of the 
Bremen A rr /Museum. 

my dear ones: Ruth Rilke was born on December 12, 1901. 

Michelet: the reference is to V Amour by the historian Jules 
Michelet (1798-1874). 

[27] p. 64 Paula's letter (published in her letters and journals, pp. 164- 
166), to which this is a reply, accuses Clara of shutting her 
out of her life and giving all her love to Rilke, who is in 
turn reproached for entirely absorbing his wife. Paula, in 
her journal (May 2, 1902), comments on Rilke's statement 
that married people should guard each other's solitude: "Are 
those not superncial solitudes over which one must stand 
guard? Do not the true solitudes lie fully open and un- 
guarded? And yet no one penetrates to them although they 
sometimes wait for someone in order to wander with him 
through valley and meadow, hand in hand. But the waiting 
is perhaps only weakness, and it makes for strength that no 
one comes. For this wandering-alone is good and shows us 
many depths and shallows of which one would not become 
so aware with another." 

[28] p. 66 Rilke had met Countess Franziska Reventlow (1871-1918) 
in Munich, his interest aroused by her having gone through 
an unhappy love affair which she later made the subject of 
a novel, Ellen Olestjerne (included in her Gesammelte 
Werke in einem Band, Munich, 1925), which Rilke reviewed 
in the Er enter Tageblatt (cf. note to [43]). 

[29] p. 67 Oskar Zwintscher: the painter (1870-1916). The previous 
year Rilke, with his feeling for tradition, had asked him to 
paint Clara's portrait in order that her "first beauty," before 
the "second beauty of motherhood," might be preserved for 
their children and grandchildren. 

[30] p. 67 The allowance from home was discontinued, as Rilke ex- 
pected, and no prospect of lucrative literary work had yet 
presented itself, but he remained firm in his determination 
not to resort to other means of earning his bread. There was 
therefore no alternative for the Rilkes but separation. Clara 
and Ruth departed for Amsterdam to recuperate from in- 
roads on their health, and Rilke accepted an invitation from 
Prince Emil zu Schoenaich-Carolath (1852-1908), himself a 
poet, to spend the summer on his estate, Schloss Haseldorf 
in Holstem, and to use freely the library and archives. Rilke 
must have had some acquaintance with the Prince in Prague 
for he speaks of him as a contributor to Wild Chicory. 


[31] p. 69 Rilke had known Frau Weinman^ in Munich. "In the Com- 
pany of the Barons" from Advent (" T TA Kreise der Barone," 
G.W. I, 185) is dedicated to her. ^ 

p. 70 my portrait-bust: a photograph of Clara's bust of Rilke is 
reproduced in Stimmen der Freunde (cf. note to [19]). 
Vicomte de Vogue: Eugene Melchior, Vicomte de Vogue,. 
French critic, author of Le roman russe. 

p. 72 new book of poems: the Book of Pictures (Das Bucb der 
Wilder, Berlin, Axel Juncker, 1902; G.W. II, 0-169). 

[3*] P' 73 Friedrich Huch: (1873-1913), novelist, a cousin of the great 
writer Ricarda Huch. 

a perpetual embarrassment: cf. in Stories of God, "You see, 
I immediately become embarrassed when I have to talk to> 
children. That isn't bad in itself. But the children might 
lay my confusion to the fact that I feel I am lying . . . 
And since the truthfulness of my story means a great deal 
tomf "(G.W. IV, 40-41). 

p. 73 the subtitle: this was dropped in the subsequent editions of 
the book. Cf. note to [23]. 

the monograph: a series of essays on the Worpswede paint- 
ers Mackensen, Modersohn, Overbeck, am Ende, Vogeler 
published under the title Worpswede (with 122 illustra- 
tions; Bielefeld und Leipzig, Verlag von Velhagen und Kla- 
sing, 1903; Introduction reprinted in A.W. II, 221-242). 

p. 75 the book on Rodin: Augusts Rodin (published by Julius 
Bard, Berlin, 1903, as the tenth volume in Muther's series of 
illustrated monographs, with eight illustrations. This is the 
first part only. The third edition, Marquardt & Co., Berlin,, 
1907, contains also the second part. Cf. [159] and note. Re- 
published by Insel- Verlag, 1913, with 96 illustrations selected 
with Rodin's approval. Now, without illustrations, G.W. IV, 
295-418. An English translation published by Jessie Lemont 
and Hans Trausil, Sunrise Turn, Inc., 1919, was recently 
issued in a reprint [with an introduction by Padraic Colum} 
by The Fine Editions Press). That Rilke's interest in Rodia 
antedated his acquaintance with Clara, who was a pupil of 
Rodin, is evident from a conversation with her recorded in 
his diary on September 21, 1900 (B.u.T., 320-322). A later 
entry (November 17, 388-391) shows that Rilke was preoc- 
cupied with Rodin long before going to Paris and that the 
ground was well prepared for this most fruitful contact. 

Muther: Richard Muther (1860-1909), the art historian, edi- 
tor of Die Kunst. 

37* _ , _ 

[33] p. 76 Arthur Holittdher: (1869-1941), novelist and essayist, a 
friend of "Munich days. 

For Rilke's feeling about Rodin's life, cf. Auguste Rodin 
(G.W. IV, 300): u for us it is as if it had passed many hun- 
dreds of years ago. We know nothing of it." 

Niels Lyhne: by J. P. Jacobsen (cf. [do] and note). 

[35] p. 77 In August, 1902, Rilke had come to Paris alone, while Clara 
remained to break up the Westerwede house, planning to 
leave Ruth with her parents and follow him as soon as pos- 
sible. "There is no doubt about it:" he wrote Clara (in 
French! ), "I am in Paris, although the corner where I live is 
full of silence. I am all expectancy: what will happen?" He 
was staying in the little hotel in Montparnasse which he was 
later to make the address of Make Laurids Brigge of the 
Notebooks. His evenings he kept for reading, writing, re- 
flection, solitude; but by day he explored the city, visiting 
and revisiting the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Luxembourg, 
the Cluny, writing to Clara his impressions of the sculpture 
and painting that interested him. Even in the first days he 
began to feel Paris as a "big, strange city," populated with 
"legions of sick, armies of dying, nations of dead." And he 
felt that all this would become endurable only if it could 
somehow relate itself to Rodin, who was after all his chief 
reason for coming to Paris. 

p. 78 C'est une main . . . : It is a hand like this, holding a piece of 
clay with . . . it's a creation, that is, a creation. 

p. 79 exposition at the Pont Alma: the World Exhibition of 1900 
at the Pont de 1'Alma in Paris. 

La Priere: Rodin's "Prayer." 

Porte de 1'Enfer: Rodin's "Gate of Hell." Cf. Auguste Rodin, 
G.W. IV, 33 1-338. 

p. 80 "The Last Judgment": Book of Pictures (G.W. II, 80-86). 

p. 8 1 Mme. Rodin became very nervous: How can I be every- 
where? . . . Tell Madelaine. (We retain Rilke's spellings. 
His French was far from perfect! ) 

Liebermann, Lenbach: the painters, Max Liebermann (1869- 
1935) an ^ Franz von Lenbach (1836-1904). 

36] p. 82 de regarder une pierre, le torse d'une femme: to look at a 
stone, the torso of a woman . . . 

p. 83 Le modele . . . the law and the relationship of these sur- 
faces: cf. Auguste Rodin (Q.W. IV, 309), where this is de- 


scribed as consisting "of infinitely many meetings of light 
with the object, and it became apparent that each of these 
meetings was different and each remarkable." 

Voila le modele* grec: That is the Greek modele*. . . . You 
know, it is not the form of the object, but: the modele" . . . 

p. 84 Non, c'est vrai . . . : No, that is true, it is not good to form 

froups, friends hinder each other. It is better to be alone, 
erhaps to have a wife because one has to have a wife. . . . 

Oui, il faut travailler: Yes, one must work, nothing but work. 
And one must have patience. ... I have given my life to it. 
. . . One must find happiness in one's art. 

Tolstoy's unedifying household: cf. [15]. 

p. 85 not to remain with the dream: "Rodin was a dreamer whose 
dream rose up into his hands . . ." (op. cit., p. 307). 

[37] p. 85 La Plume; an art periodical, in 1900 devoted a special number 
to Rodin. Rilke was gathering material for his monograph. 

[38] p. 87 These are the days when the empty fountains 

dead with hunger fall back again from autumn, 
and one divines of all the bells that ring 
the lips made of timid metals. 

The capitals are indifferent. 

But the unexpected evenings that come 

make in the park an ardent twilight, 

and to the canals whose waters are so slow 

they give a Venetian dream . . , 

and a solitude to lovers. 

[39] p. 89 wonderful pages: in Notre Dame de P<mV, Book III, i. 

p. 90 even on his Saturday: Rodin received visitors on Saturdays 
in his studio at 182 rue de I'Universite. 

[40] p. 90 a tiger (antique): probably the little plaster cast of a panther 
(Greek) mentioned in the essay on Rodin (pp. 338-339). 
"It's beautiful, that's all . . ." 

p. 91 the woman's bust in the Luxembourg: Rodin's Peruvian 

[41] p. 92 Early in October, Clara arrived in Paris and established her- 
self in a studio of her own. Rilke had moved to pleasanter 
quarters in the rue de PAbbe de 1'Epee because his other hotel 
had been "too much in the midst of student life." "My room 
au cinquieme." he wrote, "has a balcony and before it, first 

gardens, then a layer of houses held together by the dome of 
the Pantheon. And sky and morning and evening, distance." 
the monograph: Worpsivede, published by Velhagen and 
Klasing. See note to [32]. 

p. 93 my little book: the first part of the essay on Rodin. 

[42] p. 94 The Rodin book finished, Rilke, emotionally exhausted and 
physically ill, sought the warmth and sun of Italy in Viareg- 
gio where he had spent some time in 1898. Disappointments 
greeted him at every turn. He could not stay at his former 
hotel; the presence in this one of elderly British ladies inter- 
fered with his longed for solitude. But though he found 
little relief from inner restlessness, he was able to write what 
was to become the third book of the Book of Hours, the 
"Book of Poverty and Death," in which he gave expression 
to much of his feeling about Paris. 

[43] p. 95 Peter Michel: Friedrich Huch's first novel (1901), which 
Rilke frequently mentioned. During his Worpswede days 
he had contributed reviews of books, poetry, plays, art to 
the Brewer Tageblatt and other papers. A collection of these 
was published in an edition of 100 copies by Richard von 
Mises (Rainer Maria Rilke: Biicher, Theater, Kunst; printed 
by Jahoda & Siegel, Vienna, 1934), who quotes (p. vi) from a 
later letter of Rilke's: "When I write in the Bremer Tage- 
blatt, I always do it rather with my tongue in my cheek and 
with my left hand over my mouth in addition: it gets more 
journalistic that way. But nevertheless read it; it is still the 
truth, even if very much diluted." The volume contains, 
among others, reviews of Mann's Buddenbrooks, Ellen Key's 
Century of the Child, Lagerlofs Jerusalem, Wassermann's 
Moloch, as well as three discussions of Peter Michel. 

your new book: Rilke had written Huch a long letter about 
his new book, Geschivister. 

[44] p. 96 Ellen Key: Swedish reformer, feminist and writer (1849- 
1926), interested chiefly in the emancipation of women, 
problems of love and marriage, the education of children. 
Much impressed by Rilke's Stories of God, she had written 
the young author. They corresponded frequently, but did 
not meet until 1904. Rilke addressed her as "Frau" Ellen Key, 
though she was unmarried, because, as he wrote in an earlier 
letter, "Fraulein" (Miss; literally, little woman), being a 
diminutive, seemed not in keeping with his respect for her. 

p. 97 the Bojers: Johan Bojer, Norwegian writer, and his wife. 

_ 379* 

p. 97 Wilhelm Michel's article in Zeit had appeared on March 
21, 1903. His short monograph, Rainer Maria Rilke, was 
published by Axel Juncker in 1904. 

p. 98 my family is old: For a detailed discussion of Rilke's an- 
cestry see Carl Sieber's Rene Rilke (Insel-Verlag, Leipzig, 
1932). The family history Rilke relates here is based or* 
genealogical research undertaken at his Uncle Jaroslav 
Rilke's behest, but later investigations have failed to sub- 
stantiate these claims to aristocratic lineage. For biograph- 
ical details in this letter, cf. also [2] and notes, and [7], 

p. 103 Ellen Ljunggren: a friend of Ellen Key's who was planning- 
to go to what Rilke termed "frightful America" in order 
to make enough money to continue her own work. 

p. 104 Georg Brandes: the Danish literary historian and critic 

Juncker: Axel Juncker, at this time Rilke's publisher. 

[45] P- 10 5 Spanish plan: a projected trip to Spain for material for a 
book (never written) on Ignacio Zuloaga, the painter 

(l8 7 0- ). 5 * t- 

Carriere book: On first going to Paris Rilke had planned 
to write on Eugene Carriere, the painter (1849-1906), as 
well as on Rodin, but never did so. 

p. 106 letter from Rodin: acknowledging Rilke's monograph. 

Hokusai: (1760-1849). "It was at the age of seventy-three 
that I almost understood the form and the true nature of 
birds, of fish and of plants." 

[46] p. 107 Niels Lyhne: see note to [60]. Rilke wrote many verses 
of the third part of the Book of Hours on the fly leaves of 
one of his Jacobsen books. 

[47] p. 108 Rilke returned to Paris at the end of April, remaining there 
for two months. In July, he and Clara had come to Worps- 
wede, where he visited Heinrich Vogeler. 

Paris: Compare these impressions with The Notebooks of 
Malte Laurids Brigge (G.W. V, 48-49, 58 ff.; in the 
American edition, known as The Journal of My Other 
, 37-39* 50-52, 62 ff.). 

military school: see [2] and notes and [7]. 

Baudelaire's "At one o'clock in the morning": "At last! 
alone! one no longer hears anything but the rumbling of 
a few belated and broken-down cabs, For some hours we 

shall possess silence, if not repose. At last! the tyranny of 
the human face has vanished and I shall no longer suffer 
through anything but myself . . ." 

p. 1 16 a book of prayers: poems written in Viareggio constitut- 
ing Book III of the Book of Hours (see note to [42]). The 
first "prayers'* were those making up Book I. (Cf. Ruth 
Movius, Rainer Maria Rilkes Stundenbuch, Insel-Verlag, 
Leipzig, 1937.) 

48] p. 116 Clara's parents lived at Oberneuland. 

^49] p. 117 St. Francis: cf. the closing verses of Book III of the Book 
of Hours, which celebrate St. Francis and his poverty 
(G.W. II, 291 ff.; A.W. I, 103-104); also [172] and note. 

{50] p. 1 1 8 Compare this letter with the monograph on Rodin. 

51] p. 123 II faut toujours travailler: One must always work always 
-(cf. [36]). 

5*] p **6 Hokusai: see note to [45]. 

53] p 127 the impending journey: Rilke and his wife were bound 
for Rome. Clara had received a scholarship enabling her 
to work there, and Rilke had decided to join her for the 
winter, though they were not to lodge under the same roof. 

p. 131 Gerhart Hauptmann: the German poet and dramatist 
(1862- ). Rilke dedicated the first edition of the Book 
of Pictures to him (1902). 

f54l ? 133 its waters: cf. "the joyful waters of Roman days" in Son- 
nets to Orpheus, I, 10 (G.W. Ill, 322; A.W. I, 274; in the 
translation by M. D. Herter Norton, p. 35); also "Romische 
Fontane" in New Poems (G.W. Ill, 79). 

p. 134 Woodpeace: Rilke is here playing on the name of the 
villa ( Waldfrieden = Woodpeace) in which he had lived 
at Schmargendorf . 

p. 135 Dahlem road: Rilke used to walk on this road in his 
Schmargendorf days. 

57] P 138 Durand-Ruel: the Paris art dealer. 

(58] p. 141 Russian war: the Russo-Japanese war, 1904-5. 

Garshin: the Russian writer, M. M. Garshin (1855-88), 
author of Attalea Princeps, who fought in the Russo- 
Turkish war of 1877-78. 

^ 3811 

p. 141 Still keenly interested in Russia, Rilke had at this time just 
finished his translation of the old saga, The Song of Ygor's 
Regiment (ms. in Rilke Archive. A part of the translation, 
was printed in the Prager Presse, February 16, 1930, and in. 
the Inset- Almanack for 1931, pp. 143-146). 

[59] p. 141 Christos voskres!: Christ is risen!, the greeting exchanged 
by Russians on Easter Day. 

Ivanov: Alexander Andreievich Ivanov (1806-58), the 
Russian painter, on whom Rilke at one time intended to^ 
write an essay (cf. note to [13]). 

Gogol: Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (1809-52), the great 
Russian writer, author of Dead Souls. 

^ Easter just once: Rilke and Lou had spent Easter together 
in Moscow in 1899. 

Ivan Veliky: the bell-tower of Ivan the Great, which con- 
tains thirty-one bells. At exactly midnight on Easter the 
big bell used to begin ringing, followed by all the bells of" 
Moscow and one hundred and twenty cannon shots fired 
from the Kremlin, while throngs of people bearing lighted 
candles milled about in the street below. 

p. 142 the Zeit: a Vienna weekly, later a daily paper. 

Kuropatkin: General Kuropatkin, one of the Russian com- 
manders in the Russo-Japanese war. 

[60] p. 1 44 Niels Lyhne, Maria Grub be: novels by Jens Peter Jacobsen,, 
the Danish poet (1847-85). Rilke read these, as well as the- 
"six short stories" in the Reclam edition, in German- 
translations (cf. [73]). 

p. 145 "White Princess": subtitled "A Scene by the Sea," a dra- 
matic sketch Rilke wrote in Viareggio in 1898 and rewrote 
in Sweden in 1904 with Duse in mind for the leading role.. 

[61] p. 146 my new work: parts of the Notebooks of Malte Lauridr 
Brigge were written in Rome. 

i new edition* 

[62] p. 149 Friedrich Westhoff: one of Clara's brothers. 

[63] p. 153 translated fragment: Rilke had asked Ellen Key to write- 
an introductory essay for the Stories of God, a ne^ 
of which was being brought out by Insel-Verlag. 
p. 154 my growing book: see note to [61]. 

[64] p. 157 my first Viareggio: in the spring of 1898. 

p. 1 60 i. The "Prayers": became the Book of Hours. The three 
sections were already completed (see note to [42]) and 
this continuation was never carried out. 

2. My new book: The Notebooks (cf. note to [61]). 

3. and 4. None of these were ever carried out. 

Thisted: the town in Jutland where J. P. Jacobsen was born. 

p. 161 Kierkegaard: Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55), the Danish 
religious thinker and philosopher. 

the big German dictionary: the Deutsches Worterbuch, 
the pioneer work in German philology (the first volume 
of which appeared in 1854), begun by the brothers Jacob 
and Wilhelm Grimm. 

p. 164 Francis Jammes: South French, Catholic poet (1868-1938), 
a favorite of Rodin. 

the Goncourts: the brothers de Goncourt, Edmond (1822- 
96), who published the famous Journal des Goncourt, and 
Jules ( 1830-70), novelists and art historians, who specialized 
in studies of eighteenth-century France. 

p. 165 Ellen Key's ... big essay: "En oesterikisk Diktare," ap- 
peared in Ord och Bild in 1904 (XXX, Nos. 9 and 10), and 
ji an authorized translation in Deutsche Arbeit (V, nos. 5 
and 6, 1905-6). It was reprinted in her book Verk och 
Mdnniskor (Stockholm, 1910), and in the translation of 
that volume, Seelen und Werke (S. Fischer- Verlag, 1911), 
under the title "Ein Gottsucher." Cf. [121] and note. 

(65] p. 167 Thanks to Ellen Key's lectures, which had aroused inter- 
est in his writings, Rilke received several invitations to 
Scandinavia. Early in June he left Rome for Sweden, stop- 
ping to pay his respects to Copenhagen, the city of his 
beloved Jacobsen. His first destination was Borgeby gard, 
a castle in Skane, the southernmost province of Sweden, 
where he was to spend the greater part of his six months' 
sojourn in the north (July to December, 1904). While the 
castle owned by Miss Hanna Larssen, who also managed 
the farm belonging to it lacked its original furnishings 
and the flavor of antiquity he loved, Rilke writes at length 
of his delight in the country and the farm, the fragrant 
meadows, the life of field and stable, the generous table 
that more than satisfied his vegetarian tastes. 

p. 169 Brita Sophie: cf. "In einem fremden Park" ("In a foreign 
Park"), New Poems, G.W. Ill, 61. 

[66] p. 170 It was the evening . . . : cf . "Abend in Skane" ("Evening 
in Skane"), Book of Pictures, G.W. II, 60; A.W. I, 115. 

[67] p. 171 Petri: Egon Petri, the pianist. 

p. 172 Norlind: Ernst Norlind, the Swedish painter and writer, 
who was also living here, and whom Rilke describes as at 
once monkish and Bohemian, yet a man who "has thought 
much and has come out somewhere in his thinking where 
there is wind and sky as in poems." Mr. Norlind has pub- 
lished an account of these days with Rilke and Ellen Key 
(in Fontaine, the French literary review published in 
Algiers, IV, vol. 5, no. 30, 1943). 

[68] p. 1 73 Kappus: Franz Kappus, to whom were addressed the letters 
published after Rilke's death as the Letters to a Young Poet. 

c'est de la terre en repos: it is land lying fallow. 

[69] p. 174 the Mangwa: pictorial encyclopedia of Japanese life, pub- 
lished from 1812-75, for which Hokusai (see note to [45]) 
provided the illustrations. On his way through Germany 
to Scandinavia Rilke had spent a day in Diisseldorf looking 
at a collection of Japanese prints, perusing in particular 
the thirteen volumes of the Mangiva. 

work-boughs: cf. "Der Apfelgarten" ("The Apple Or- 
chard"), New Poems, G.W. Ill, 248. 

[70] p. 175 Tora Holmstrom: the sister of a young zoology-student 
friend of Norlind's. To Ellen Key, Rilke describes her as 
"a dear and deep kind of person." 

Hofmannsthal, George: cf. notes to [143], [150], 

[73] P *77 Hermann Bang: the Danish writer (1858-1912). 

the letters Kierkegaard wrote to his fiancee: Kierkegaard's 
letters to Regina (Olsen) Schlegel had been published, 
with other papers, in Kierkegaardske Papirer: Forlovelsen 
(Gyldendal, Copenhagen) in 1904. The notebook con- 
taining Rilke's translation is in the Rilke Archive. 

[77] p. 179 At the end of the summer Rilke had left Borgeby gard for 
Furuborg, Jonsered, near Goteborg, a country of fir woods 
and sea, where he stayed with a family named Gibson. He 
made various trips to Copenhagen where, again through 
the good offices of Ellen Key, he met Georg Brandes, Karin 
Michaelis, and the painter Hammershoj. While at Jonsered 
he became interested in the Samskola, Sweden's first ex- 
periment with the community school, publishing an essay 


on the subject in Die Zukunft (XIII, no. 14, January i, 1905; 
now G.W. IV, 221-232). He was happy here, and wrote 
Ellen Key that the strength and clarity of the people's souls 
and the melancholy and serious happiness of the autumn 
were working upon him and transforming him. Clara 
joined him here for a few weeks. 

[79] p. 1 80 This letter was first published in the Vossische Zeitung 
of December 25, 1927. 

p. 181 Obstf elder: the Norwegian poet, Sigbjorn Obstf elder 
(1886-1906), whose character and writings might suggest 
him as a prototype for Malte in the Notebooks. 

[80] p. 182 Frau Lizzi: Rilke's hostess, Frau Lizzi Gibson. 
Charlottenlund: Ellen Key lived here. 

[81] p. 183 Cf, the description of the ghostly burnt-down castle in 
the Notebooks (G.W. V, 165-167; A.W. II, 117-119; The 
Journal, 131-132). 

p. 184 Ellen Key's . . . Lifslinjer: in which she made a restate- 
ment, almost a defense of her ideas. The first part had ap- 
peared under this title in 1903 (Bonnier, Stockholm); the 
two parts later appeared as Karleken ocb aktenskapet. 

[82] p. 184 Rilke had returned to Oberneuland in time to spend Christ- 
mas with Clara and Ruth, staying on till the end of Febru- 
ary, 1905. His health again troubling him, he spent March 
and April at the "Weisse Hirsch" near Dresden, taking a 
cure. Here he formed a warm friendship with Countess 
Luise Schwerin (nee von Nordeck-Rabenau), a poet in her 
own right, whom he was later to visit, becoming acquainted 
with her circle of friends, many of whom were to be 
among his most frequent correspondents. From the end 
of April he had been at Worpswede again, 

Meister Eckehart: Master Eckhart, one of the great medie- 
val mystics (1260?-! 3 27?). 

[83] p. 1 86 Rilke was visiting Lou and her husband in Gottingen. 
throne of Venus: cf. [54]. 
my "Rodin": the monograph, 
the "Panther": New'Poems, G.W. Ill, 44; A.W. I, 172, 

p. 187 Hainbund poets: a school of young poets, admirers of 
Klopstock, who in the 1770*5 indulged in idyllic wanderings 
in the groves of Gottingen. 

_ 3f5 

[85] p. 187 Friedelhausen, Lollar: the home of Countess Schwerin. 

the Rabenau: the family estate of Julie, Baroness von 
Nordeck zur Rabenau, often referred to in the letters as 
Frau Nonna, the mother of Countess Schwerin. 

[86] p. 1 88 the following letter: "Monsieur Rodin asks me to let you 
know that he will be happy to see you; Monsieur Rodin 
will expect you in Paris from the seventh of this month. 
Monsieur Rodin further asks me to let you know that you 
will be able to live with him, at Meudon, for the duration 
of your stay in Paris. . . . Monsieur Rodin counts on 
your staying with him in order to be able to talk." 

[87] p. 189 Wacholderhohe, Godesberg: Rilke was now visiting the 
Karl von der Heydts (see [100] and note). 

the dear gray castle: Friedelhausen. 

[88] p. 191 After a brief visit to his Paris haunts of three years before, 
Rilke was now installed in the tiny "Villa des Brillants" in 
Rodin's garden at Meudon. 

[89] p. 192 "Age d'airain": Rodin's statue, "The Age of Bronze." 
p. 193 c'est l'orme: that is the elm. 

Charles Morice: poet and writer (1861-1919), founder of 
the periodical Lutece. 

p. 194 effigy of Buddha: cf. the two poems, "Buddha" and 
"Buddha in der Glorie" ("Buddha in Glory"), New Poems 

c'est le centre du monde: it is the centre of the world. 

[91] p. 194 Verhaeren: Rilke had just met Verhaeren, the Belgian 
poet (1855-1916), whose work he greatly admired. 

[92] p. 196 already quite a birthday: Rilke's birthday was December 4, 
[93] p. 197 Bon courage: good courage. 

[94] p. 198 the angel: cf. "L'Ange du me'ridien (Chartres)," in New 
Poems (G.W. Ill, 32). 

"Mais vous ne savez pas . . .": "But don't you know, . . . 
there is always a wind, that wind about big cathedrals. 
They are always surrounded by an evil, restless wind, tor- 
mented by their grandeur. It is the air falling down along 
the buttresses, falling from that height and wandering about 
the church. . . ." 


[96] p. 199 Troubetzkoi's: Prince Paul Troubetzkoi, the Russian sculp- 
tor, whom Rilke had met in Moscow in 1899. 

p. 200 Minne: Baron George Minne, Belgian sculptor (1866- 

flamingos: cf. "Die Flamingos" (New Poems, G.W. Ill, 

[98] p. 20 1 While on a lecture tour, speaking on Rodin, Rilke had been 
called to Prague, to the bedside of his father, who died on 
March i jth. He returned to Paris early in April. 

Francis Jammes: see note to [64]. 

[99] p. 202 Rilke had met Karl von der Heydt and his wife Elisabeth 
through Countess Schwerin. They were most open-handed 
friends, and Rilke expressed his gratitude for their many 
kindnesses by dedicating to them the first part of the New 

[100] p. 203 that time in Rome: September, 1903 June, 1904. 

the Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge: (cf. note to [47] )< 
begun in Rome, but not finished until 1910. 

[105] p. 209 See [106], 

[106] p. 210 M, Thyssen: a writer whom Rilke had introduced to Ro- 
din. (For this identification we are indebted to Mr. Joseph 
Brummer of the Brummer Galleries, who knew Rilke at 
this time.) 

M. Rothenstein: the late Sir William Rothenstein (1872- 
1945), the English artist, noted for his portrait drawings. 

p. 212 justice . . . will correct the wrong: In a postscript to this 
letter Rilke added: "I shall tell my relatives and friends 
(especially my great friend Ellen Key who is arriving in 
Paris in a few days) that it is to return with all my powers 
to my own work that I have left you." And in a further 
note on the same day: "Once more all my farewells which 
the circumstances do not permit me to express. Most af- 
fectionately as always yours." (Cf. R. M. Rilke: Lettres a 
Rodin, edited by Georges Grappe, Emile-Paul Freres, Paris, 
193 1.) The breach with Rodin was healed a year and a half 
later (see [187] and [190]). 

[108] p< 213 The Baroness, nee Schwerin, was the wife of Baron Jakob 
J, Uexkiill, the naturalist. The first edition of The Love 
and Death of Comet Christopher Rilke (Axel Juncker 
Verlag, Berlin, Leipzig, Stuttgart, 1906), the dramatic poem 

written in Schmargendorf in 1899, first published in 1904 
(in Deutsche Arbeit, IV, i, October), and which he was 
now revising, was dedicated to her. (Now in G.W. IV, 
5-34; A.W. II, 309-322.) 

p. 214 Book of Pictures: the first edition was published in 1902. 
[109] p. 214 the passage in question: Section XI of the Cornet. 
[no] p. 215 Duval: well-known chain restaurants in Paris. 

p. 216 the bird which "has not this care": the recurrent motive 
(based on Matt. Vl y 24-34) f Kierkegaard's "Anxieties of 
the Heathen," constituting Part I of the Christian Dis- 
courses and the first of which is "The Anxiety of Poverty." 
Dr. Walter Lowrie in his translation of the Discourses 
(Oxford University Press, 1939) renders the phrase: "This 
anxiety the bird has not." 

St. Anne: Leonardo's painting of St. Anne with the Virgin 
and Child. Ellen Key had mentioned it in an essay on 
madonnas, and Rilke had told her (in a letter of January 
29, 1903) that when he and Clara saw the picture they 
thought of her. 

Jouven: restaurant on the Boulevard Montparnasse which 
Rilke frequented. 

p. 217 Madame G . . . R . . . : the widow of Georges Roden- 
bach (1855-98), Belgian writer, author of Bruges la Morte 


Meier-Graefe: Julius Meier-Graefe (1867-1935), the art 
historian and writer. 

[in] p. 2 1 8 Rilke had gone out to Chantilly with Ellen Key, the Bo jers, 
and Paula Becker. 

p. 219 greatest member of the house of Condi: Louis II, Prince 
de Conde (1621-86), called "le grand Conde." 

[112] p. 219 La vigne pleure: the vine weeps. 

p. 220 K6nigs-H6he: the estate of Baron August and Baroness 
Selma von der Heydt in Elberfeld. 

Stina Frisell: Rilke speaks elsewhere of spending some quiet 
hours, before and after his reading in the Samskola in 1904, 
at the beautiful house of Stina Frisell (presumably the wife 
of Erik Frisell, a prominent industrialist) in Goteborg. 
Secessionist: at that time the modern school of art, 

p. 221 Dora Herxheimer: sculptress, one of the friends who con- 
tributed reminiscences of Rilke to the little volume Rainer 


At aria Rilke, Stimmen dcr Freunde (edited by Gert Buch- 
heit, Urban- Verlag, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1931). 

Ellen Key's book: the essay on Rilke (see note to [64]) 
was about to appear in book form. See note to [121]. 

p. 222 a certain alteration: Rilke had shaved his goatee. 

[i 14] p. 225 a little poem: "Portrait of my Father as a Youth" ("Jugend- 
bildnis meines Vaters"), New Poems, G.W. Ill, 69. 

[115] p. 225 Rembrandt celebration: in Amsterdam, 1906, the tercente- 
nary of Rembrandt's birth. 

p. 226 stretched my contours . . . : cf . "The Founder" ("Der 
Stifter," New Poems, G.W. Ill, 48): 

Viellcicht war dieses alles: so This perhaps was everything: 

zu knien to kneel like this 

(so wie es alles ist, was wir er- (the way what we have ex- 

fuhren): perienced is everything): 

zu knien: dass man die ei- to kneel: so as to hold one's 

genen Konturen, own contours, 

die auswartswollenden, ganz that would strain outward, all 

angespannt close-hitched 

im Herzen halt, wie Pferde in in one's heart, like horses in 

der Hand. one's hand. 

[i 1 6] p. 226 Rilke had come for a few weeks to the Belgian coast, where 
he was shortly to be joined by Clara and Ruth. 

p. 227 Furnes: cf. the little essay, "Fumes" (G.W. IV, 239-252). 

[117] p. 227 Countess Mary Gneisenau: poet and author, whom Rilke 
had met through Countess Luise Schwerin. 
Countess Schwerin had recently died. Rilke, Clara, and 
Ruth were staying at Friedelhausen, her home, as guests of 
her sister, Frau Alice Faehndrich. 

Sister Marianna: the young Portuguese, Marianna Alco- 
forado (1640-1723), a Franciscan nun, whose letters to her 
unfaithful lover, the Marquis de Chamilly (Rilke refers to 
him as the Count), Rilke had translated (first published in 
the Insel-Almanach for 1908; now as Portuguese Letters, 
G.W. VI, 103-148). An English translation by Donald E. 
Ericson of the original letters, which were first published 
in Paris in 1669, has recently been brought out under the 
title The Portuguese Letters (Bennett-Edwards, New 
York, 1941 ). 

[120] p. 231 our present kind hostess: Frau Faehndrich (see note to 


[in] p. 233 now comes a request: Rilke's entreaties seem to have had 
at least a temporary effect, for the essay was not published 
at this time. See note to [64]. 

Bard: Julius Bard, the Berlin publisher. 

the place with Fischer: in the Neuer Rundschau, published 
by Fischer, 

[122] p. 234 Rilke was stopping in Naples on his way to Frau Faehn- 
drich's on Capri. 

zanzariere: mosquito net. 

[123] p. 235 Vollmoeller: Karl Vollmoeller (1878- ), poet and sports- 
man, now living in this country. 

p. 236 plans: planes of composition. 

[124] p. 237* seen many things again: The Rilkes had been in Naples for 
four days in June, 1904. 

Orpheus, Eurydike, Hermes: the poem of this title had 
been written in that year, and Rilke had read it aloud at 
the evening gathering in the Samskola in Sweden in No- 

[125] p. 237 "Pioggia, scirocco ": "Rain, sirocco ." 

p. 238 the Cucafia: by Goya, in the National Gallery in Berlin. 
Rilke had described his impressions on first seeing this 
picture in a letter to Clara (July 5, 1905). 

Vincent Van Gogh, Letters: the German edition (edited 
by Margarete Mauthner, Cassirer, Berlin, 1906). 

[126] p. 241 Diefenbach: the painter, Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach (1837- 

Gorky: Maxim Gorky (pseudonym of A. M. Pyeshkov), 
the Russian novelist (1868-1926). Rilke writes elsewhere 
(December 14, 1906): "Diefenbach is still here, and every- 
one had become accustomed to his caprices just as they 
are in process of getting used to Gorky, who allows him- 
self to be feted as an anarchist but, agreeably enough, at 
the moment occasionally throws money instead of bombs 
among the people, in heaps." 

[129] p. 248 rue de 1'Abbe" de 1'Epee: in Paris. Rilke lived at No. 3 for 
some months in the winter of 1902-3. 
Studio al Ponte: the little house on the bridge in the garden 
of the Villa Strohl-Fern in Rome, in which he had lived 
in 1903-4. 


[131] p. 253 Clara, on her way to Egypt to join Baroness Knoop, had 
stopped to visit her husband. 

My trip back: from Naples, where he had seen Clara off 
in the "Oceana," the steamer plying between Naples and 

[132] p. 2 54 this stream: the Nile. 

the big Andre: the general atlas of Richard Andree. 

like a coronal suture: cf, the essay, "Urgerausch" (G.W. 
IV, 285-294; A.W. II, 274-280), translated into English by 
Carl Niemeyer in Rainer Maria Rilke: Primal Sound and 
Other Prose Pieces (The Cummington Press, 1943). 

[133] p. 256 The Book of Hours: Das Stunden-Buch had been pub- 
lished by Insel-Verlag in 1905, with the dedication: "Laid 
in the hands of Lou." Of it, Rilke wrote (to Georg Sim- 
mel, August 26, 1908) : "It is the only one among my older 
books that does not give way under me, that builds a 
strong calm spot and helps me along like something that 
was long before me and is more than just myself." 

p. 257 poems in the Neue Rundschau: In the issue for November, 
1905 (XVI, 1 1 ) had been published Three Poems in Prose: 
"Graves of the Hetaerae" ("Haetaeren-Graber"), "Or- 
pheus. Euridyke. Hermes," "Birth of Venus" ("Geburt der 
Venus"), later included in New Poems, Part I (now G.W. 
Ill, 96-98, 99-i2 (also A.W. I, 181-184), 103-106). At 
the time, Rilke wrote Fischer, the publisher, that these 
were among the few things that stood up under his own 

something like a new Book of Hours: This collection was 
to become the first part of New Poems. 

[134] p. 258 Antonio came in ... with: "the day is splendid." 

the three islands of the Sirens: cf. "The Isle of the Sirens" 
("Die Insel der Sirenen," G.W. Ill, 123-124). 

[135] p. 260 Rodin's comment: "Ah I never noticed." 

[136] p, 260 Walter Gate: young German poet, who committed suicide 
(1904) at 23. A collection of snort stories, poems, etc., was 
published after his death (5th-6th printing, Berlin, 1920). 

[139] p. 267 P.B.: Paula Becker. 
[140] p. 267 the "Oceana" letter: see note to [131]. 
p. 268 Tante Gabriele; see note to [2]. 


p. 268 the new Rodin volume: the second part of the essay on 
Rodin. The motto, "To work rests one," was not used. 

[142] p. 271 a new book of poems: New Poems. Part I was published in 
December, 1907, Part II in 1908. 

[143] p. 271 Hugo von Hofmannsthal: (1874-1929), the Austrian poet. 
The facsimile of this letter here reproduced is taken from 
that in the First Edition of the Letters. 

p. 272 your lecture: HofmannsthaFs lecture on the poet and our 
time, "Der Dichter und diese Zeit," published in the Neue 
Rundschau, March, 1907 (now in Die Beruhrung der 
Sphdren, Berlin, 1931,42-71). 

"The Rosebowl," "Alkestis": were published in Morgen 
(July-December, 1907, No. 14, September 13, 1907; now 
G.W. Ill, 110-113, 103-106; A.W. I, 188-190, 185-188), a 
weekly for which Hofmannsthal acted as poetry editor 
and to which he had asked Rilke to contribute. 
Bte: Oskar Bie, writer on music, an editor of Fischer's Neue 
Rundschau. For the poems he published see note to [133]. 

[144] p. 273 three poems as a sample: "The Carrousel," "Abisag," "The 
Panther" (now G.W. Ill, 80-8 1, 17, 44; the first and last 
also A.W. I, 173-174, 172) appeared in the Ins el- Almanack 
auf das Jahr 1908, together with the essay on the Portuguese 
nun's letters (cf. note to [117]). 

Spanish madonna: Many figures in the pardon processions 
Rilke had seen in Belgium were of seventeenth-century 
Spanish origin. 

Hofmannsthal: see [143] and notes. 
[146] p. 275 Frau Nonna: see note to [85]. 
Londorf: see [85]. 

[147] P- 275 Ernst Nprlind: see note to [67]. In reply to a request that 

he criticize a poem Norlind had written in German, Rilke 

begins by commenting, in substance, that as the poem lacks 

the feeling of the German language it can never really live, 

p. 276 Bonnier: the Stockholm publisher. 

[148] p. 277 a daily task: the translation of the Sonnets from the Portu- 
guese of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, on which Rilke had 
worked with his hostess, Frau Faehndrich (Insel-Verlag, 
1908; now G.W. VI, 5-50; A.W. II containing only nos. 
6 35 39, 22). Cf. [74]. In 1912, Rilke still sees "no prospect 
of learning English"! 


[149] P'*77 Gorky: see [126] and note. 

[150] p. 278 Friedrich von Oppeln-Bronikowski was preparing a lec- 
ture on Rilke (delivered before the Literaturhistoriscbe 
Gesellschaft of Bonn, July 6, 1907). 

my having met the poet: Rilke had met Stefan George 
(1868-1933) in Florence in April, 1898. 

[151] p. 280 Carriere: see note to [45]. 

Dora: Dora Herxheimer (see note to [112]). 

Colarossi's: atelier for art students in Paris. 

Mathilde Vollmoeller: see note to [172]. 
[152] p. 280 Bagatelle Palace: in the Bois de Boulogne. 

newly installed . . . collection: of modern French paint- 
ings and drawings, collected by Etienne Moreau-Nelaton, 
the painter (1855^- ), was given to the Louvre in 1907. 

p. 281 Bernheim jeune: Paris art dealer. 

Maillol: Aristide Maillol, the French sculptor (1861-1944). 
Berthe Morisot: Manet's sister-in-law. 
BashkirtsefF: see note to [23], 

[153] p. 282 looking at the gazelles: cf. "The Gazelle" in New Poemt 
(G.W. Ill, 45). Clara had modeled some gazelles while 
staying at Al Hayat, a sanatorium in Heluan near Cairo, 
during her trip to Egypt the preceding winter. 

[154] p. 282 A student: cf. The Notebooks (G.W. V, 208-209; AW. 
II, 147-149; The Journal, 167-168). 

[156] p. 284 Tante Alia and the Countess: Frau Alice Faehndrich and 
(presumably) her daughter, Countess Manon zu Solms- 

p. 285 Mile de Lespinasse: Rilke was reading, "two or three each 
day," the Letters (1809) of Julie de Lespinasse (1732-76), 
at whose salon the Encyclopedists used to meet. Her an- 
swer: "Paris is the place in the world where one can be 
poor with the fewest privations; only bores and idiots need 
to be rich." 

[157] p. 287 "Alkestis": see note to [143]. 

The Rodin conversation: Clara had had a talk with Meier- 
Graefe about Rodin, in which (as she remembered it) he 
had said that Rodin's "always working" had led to a 
broadening but not to a higher development of his art. 


[158] p. 288 Diriks: Carl Edvard Diriks. 

My new book: New Poems, Part I. 

[159] p. 288 the present lecture: While acting as his secretary, Rilke 
made two tours lecturing on Rodin's work, the first to 
Dresden and Prague, the second to Berlin, Hamburg, Bre- 
men, and Weimar. The material as drawn up and presented 
on these occasions he used for the second part of the book 
on Rodin (cf. [32] and note). 

[163] p. 290 the new book: New Poems, L The "Gazelle" was re- 
tained (cf. [178]; also note to [153]). The "Marionette 
Theater" has never been published. 

[165] p. 291 Dr. Martin Zickel, the theatrical director, was at this time 
in Breslau. We owe this letter to the kindness of Dr. Rich- 
ard von Mises; the facsimile is from the autograph in his 
collection. The letter concerns the Breslau evening de- 
scribed in [188]. 

Baron von Gleichen-Russwurm: Alexander Freiherr von 
Gleichen-Russwurm, a great-grandson of Schiller, shared 
the evening with Rilke. 

Daily Life: Das tagliche Leben, an early drama of Rilke's 
in two acts, unsuccessfully performed at the Residenz- 
Theater in Berlin in 1901, had had a friendly reception 
at a special matinee performance in Breslau in May, 1907. 

[166] p. 292 Sabatier's Saint Francis: Vie de Saint Francois (TAssise, 
by Paul Sabatier (1894). 

Li Tai Po: (701-762). 

[167] p. 294 your little book: Schellenberg's Rainer Maria Rilke. Em 
Essay (Beitrage zur Literaturgeschichte, Heft 35. Verlag 
fur Literatur, Kunst und Musik, Leipzig, 1907). 

[168] p. 294 Paul Zech: author of the first full-length work on Rilke, 
Rainer Maria Rilke, der Mensch und das Werk (Wolfgang 
Jess, Dresden, 1930), from which this letter is taken. 

[170] p. 297 your new work: a school for little children. 
[171] p. 297 Potin's: Potin, the Paris grocer. 

p. 298 "Corrida": New Poems, G.W. Ill, 213-214. 

[172] p. 298 Van Gogh portfolio: Mathilde'Vollmoeller, painter, sister 
of the poet, had lent Rilke a portfolio of Van Gogh re- 
productions which she had recently brought back with her 
from Amsterdam. 


p. 299 poverty ... a radiance: cf. the line "For poverty is a 
great radiance from within . . ." from the Book of Hours 
(G.W. II, 282; A.W. 1, 96) (See also [49] and note). 

[173] p. 300 "Pages from a Stormy Night": G.W. II, 140-149. 

This way there are two worlds: Rilke here wrote "zwei 
Welt," apparently thinking this an expression of Jacobsen's. 
It would appear, however, that Jacobsen merely used the 
abbreviation To Verd. (in a letter to Edvard Brandes, 
October 28, 1879) in referring to the title of his short story 
To Verdener, much as if one wrote Two Wld. for 
Tivo Worlds. Lydia Baer in her able article on Rilke and 
Jens Peter Jacobsen (PMLA, LIV, 4, December, 1939) 
bears out this view and explains how the misunderstanding 
arose through the German translation (Reclam edition) in 
which Rilke first read Jacobsen's stories. 

little shops: cf. the Notebooks (G.W. V, 54-55; A.W. II, 
40; The Journal, 41). 

[175] p. 303 Titian (1477-1576); Tintoretto (1518-1594); Francesco 
Guardi (1712-1793); Tiepolo (1696^-1770); Rosalba Gio- 
vanna Camera (1675-1757). 

p. 304 Maurice Quentin de la Tour (1704-1788); Peronnet (J. B. 
Perronneau, 1715-1788); Chardin (1699-1779). 

[176] p. 305 Pissaro: Camille Pissaro (1830-1903), French Impressionist 

reporter of all these facts: femile Bernard, Souvenirs sur 
Paul Cezanne, Paris, 1926 (cf. also Ambroise Vollard, Paul 
Cezanne, Paris, 1915). 

p. 306 Zola: femile Zola, the French novelist, a friend of Cezanne's 
youth, had written about him in L'Oeuvre. 

he screamed at a visitor: "work without bothering about 
anybody and grow strong." 

p. 307 plans: see note to [123]. 

he broke out: "Things are going badly . . . Life is fright- 

[177] p. 309 Mathilde Vollmoeller: see note to [172]. 

[178] p. 310 a part of the Book of Hours: the second part had been 
written in Westerwede in 1901. 

p. 3 1 1 the fragment on the Lonely: unpublished, probably among 
the manuscripts lost or auctioned in Paris during the war. 


p. 3ii the first proofs: of New Poems. 

the "Gazelle'*: see [153], [163], and notes. 

[179] p. 312 one hears them assert: "there is absolutely nothing, noth- 
ing, nothing there." 

[180] p. 313 the blue slips: the manuscript pages of New Poems. 

Verlaine, who under "My Will" wrote: I give nothing to 
the poor because I am myself a poor man. 

[181] p. 314 "The Carcass": "Une Charogne," in Fleurs du Mai. Cf. 
The Notebooks (G.W. V, 89; AW. II, 64; The Journal, 

p. 315 Saint- Julien-l'hospitalier: the legend of this title in Flau- 
bert's Trois Contes (1877). Cf. The Notebooks (GW. V, 
90; A.W. II, 64; The Journal, 69). 

the death of the Chamberlain: in The Notebooks (GW. 
V, 15-21; AW. II, 12-17; The Journal, 9-15). 

Raskolnikov: the protagonist in Dostoievsky's Crime and 

[182] p. 317 And in the last letter: "So I am continuing my studies." 

the wish that was literally fulfilled: "I swore to die paint- 
ing." Overtaken by a violent rainstorm while sketching, 
Cezanne, carrying his heavy equipment, collapsed by the 
roadside with a chill. He died a week later. 

[184] p. 319 the self-portrait: The catalogue of the Salon d'Automne 
of 1907 (which included the retrospective memorial ex- 
hibition of Cezanne's works) lists a self-portrait from the 
collection of Auguste Pellerin, Paris, and from Rilke's 
description of the background this would appear to be No. 
286 in Venturi's Catalogue raisonne of Cezanne's works, 
from the 1873-76 period (not 1879 as suggested in the origi- 
nal edition of the Letters, whose editors did not have access 
to the Salon catalogue). 

p. 320 in the very beautiful composition: The still life Rilke here 
describes would appear to be "La Pendule noire" ("The 
Black Clock"), 1869-71, at one time in the collection of 
Baron Kohner in Budapest, now in that of Mr. Edward G. 
Robinson, Hollywood (Venturi, No. 69). 

[185] p. 321 my packing: Rilke was about to leave for a tour covering 
Prague, Breslau, and Vienna, speaking again on Rodin and 
also reading from his own poems. 

p. 322 rue de PAbbe de 1'Epte: see note to [129], 

[ 1 86] p. 3 2 2 The feeling Rilke here expresses about Prague reminds one 
of a passage about Copenhagen in The Notebooks (G.W* 
V, 189-190; A.W. II, 134-135; The Journal, 151-151). 

[187] p. 323 Mr. Cherny: Rodin's secretary. 

Heller, the bookdealer: see note to [190]. 

p. 324 the extract of my new Rodin work: from the second part 
of the Rodin essay (see notes to [32] and [140], in Kunst 
und Kunstler, Jahrg. VI, Heft I, October, 1907, pp. 28-39). 

p. 325 Kamenitz an der Linde: see note to [44], 
B. of P.: Book of Pictures. 

Christine Brahe: from The Notebooks (G.W. V, 31-47; 
A.W. II, 24-35; The Journal, 24-35). 

"The Carrousel": see note to [144], 

[188] p. 325 the Breslau evening: see [165] and note. 

p. 326 Ivan the Terrible: in "The Czars," III, from the Book of 
Pictures (G.W. II, 99; A.W. I, 124). 

[189] p. 327 the death of Chamberlain Brigge: see note to [181]. 
Sidie Nadherny: Baroness Nadherny (see [187]). 

[190] p. 328 Heller: Rilke had been invited by the bookdealer, Hugo 
Heller the first in Vienna to arrange such lectures and 
exhibitions to give a reading in the small room at the back 
of the store. 

It reads: "Come to see me when you are in Paris. So many 
things, so many things. We have need of truth, of poetry, 
both of us, and of friendship." Cf. [106] and note. 

the story of Psyche: "it is the story that is so delightful of 
woman and of her entrance into life ." In a letter to 
Rodin of this same date, Rilke wrote: "I am approaching 
the same subject from afar having recently done some 
small things on the Portuguese Nun ... on Duse, on 
Madame de Noailles. ... I am not sufficiently advanced 
to dare go further. I shall do so some day." 

The essay: (the extract alluded to in [187] and note) "your 
essay ... I find it in truth very beautiful." 

Hofmannsthal: Rilke met Hofmannsthal for the first time 
on this visit to Vienna. 


[191] p. 329 chez 

: Mile Romanelli: Rilke was staying at the Romanelli's. 
His letters to Signorina Romanelli have been published 
by Aeschlimann, Milan, but because of wartime conditions 
have not yet reached this country. 

This Venice: As a young man Rilke had found Venice the 
"strangest of all wonders. . , . Venice! I gaze and gaze 
and am like a child. Am in accord with everything." (Post- 
card to Wilhelm von Scholz, March 30, 1897.) 

[192] p. 329 From the end of November, when he left Venice, until 
the middle of February, 1908, Rilke was in Oberneuland 
with his family; after which he moved about, visiting 
friends Berlin, Rome, Naples, Capri, Florence not re- 
turning to Paris, or to any kind or sustained work, until 
May, 1908. 

this incongruous event: the occasion of this letter was the 
death of Frau Faehndrich, the sister of Countess Schwerin. 
Countess Schwerin . . . and my father: both had died in 
1906, in February and March respectively. 

C ! 93l P- 33 * On September first Rilke had moved into the Hotel de 
Biron at 77 rue de Varenne, into Clara's temporarily vacant 
studio from which, on her return, he moved to other rooms 
in the same building. A little later Rodin also set up a studio 
there, at Rilke's suggestion. It is now the Musee Rodin. 
Among other occupants were the actor de Max, the writer 
Jean Cocteau, and Isadora Duncan, who used one of the 
rooms for dance rehearsals. 

p. 332 the Nun: the Portuguese Nun (see [117] and note). 

Count de Chamilly: see note to [117]. 
p. 333 and said: It is Rodin carrying his work, which grows 

heavier and heavier, but which holds the world. 

plans: see note to [ 1 2 3 ] . 

[194] p. 335 Goethe's Correspondence with a Child: a remarkable book 
of letters, reminiscences, and hymns to Goethe, by Bettina 
(Brentano) von Arnim (1785-1859). 

Make Laurids: cf. The Notebooks (G.W. V, 239-241; 
A.W. II, 170-171; The Journal, 192-194). 
Buddha must wait: see note to [195], 

p. 336 The Discourses: The Discourses of Gautama Buddha. 
With her friend Anna Jaenecke, Clara was reading Karl 
Eugen Neumann's translation (Munich, 1907), which she 
had sent Rilke. 


[196] p. 338 your dear aunt: Baroness Schenck zu Schweinsberg, whom 
Rilke had met on Capri, was a niece of Frau Faehndrich. 
Cf. [192]. 

[197] p. 340 Weisser Hirsch: Rilke had taken the cure here in 1905. 

Green Vault: famous collection of jewels and objets d'art 
in Dresden. 

Rosalba Camera: cf. [175] and note. 

[198] p. 341 The "View of Toledo" by El Greco which Rilke describes 
is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

[201] p. 344 Anton Kippenberg: director of the Insel-Verlag and 
Rilke's publisher. (This letter is taken from B.V.) 

this work: The Notebooks of Malte t^aurids Brigge (cf. 
notes to [47], [61], [100]). < 

[202] p. 345 Hugo Heller: cf. [190], We are indebted to Dr. Richard 
von Mises for a copy of this letter (firsi: published in the 
Berliner Tageblatt, no. 563, Friday, November 29, 1929). 

the "Requiem": see note to [17]. \ 

you too recognized: Heller's first wife, also a painter, had 
died in childbirth. 

[204] p. 346 Jakob Baron Uexkiill: see note to [108]. 

[205] p. 348 Lizzie Gibson: Rilke's hostess at Furuborg, Jonsered, in 
Sweden, in 1904. \ 

[206] p. 351 The Marquise: later the Duchesse de Choiseul, an Ameri- 
can woman who at this time had a great influence on Rodin. 

(said Rodin): "opens and shuts the harmony\ tap." . . . 
"Rilke says: it is as wide as silence; that's true . \ ." 

[208] p. 357 he said: "Theosophy is an eater of men" ... \ 

[209] p. 358 Georg Brandes: (1842-1927), the Danish litera\ry critic, 
whom Rilke had met in Scandinavia. \ 

Rodenbach: Georges Rodenbach (cf. note to [IIQ]). 

[210] p. 359 The long work period in Paris had ended, its frui v cs New 
Poe?ns 11 and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids klrigge. 
Rilke had been visiting his publisher in Leipzig, busV with 
the dictation of the manuscript of the latter. He wai* now 
under way again, beginning with a month's sojourn in 
Rome. (This letter is taken from B.V.) 


p. 360 the fool of Charles the Bold: cf. The Notebooks (G.W. 
V, 228-232; AW. II," 162-163; The Journal, 183-186). 

[211] p. 362 Countess Julie Reventlow: cf. The Notebooks (G.W. V t 
183, 289; A.W. II, 130, 205; The Journal, 147, 234). 


(The numbers refer to the Letters) 

Andreas-Salome, Lou, 14, 47, 49, 50, 51, 

5*. 53. 54. 57. 5 8 59. <$i <*4 73. 77. 
81, 205 

Bauschinger, Dr. Julius, 3 

Becker, Paula, tee Modersohn-Becker, 


Bodman, Emanuel von, 24 
Bonz, Adolf, 9 
Brandes, Georg, 209 
Billow, Frieda von, 8, 10, 1 1, 20 

David-Rhonfeld, Valery, 2 
Du Prel, Karl Baron, 6 

Fischer, S., 101 

Ganghofer, Ludwig, 7 
Gneisenau, Countess Mary, 117, 120, 

Heller, Hugo, 202 

Heydt, Elisabeth von der, 103, 126, 133 

Heydt, Karl von der, 90, 99, 100, 116, 

118, 126, 149, 203 
Hofmannsthal, Hugo von, 143 
Holitscher, Arthur, 33, 55, 74, 93 
Holmstrom, Tora, 70, 76, 145 
Huch, Friedrich, 32, 43 

Kanitz-Menar, Countess Lili, 192, 200 
Keim, Franz, i 

Key, Ellen, 44, 48, 56, 60, 63, 107, 121 
Kippenberg, Anton, 201, 210 

Modersohn, Otto, 19, 41 
Modersohn-Becker, Paula, 17, 21, 23, 
27, 141 

Nordeck zur Rabenau, Julie Baroness 
von, 155, 164, 170 

Nordeck zur Rabenau, Marietta Bar- 
oness von, 212 

Norlind, Ernst, 147 

Oppeln-Bronikowski, Friedrich von, 

Pauli, Gustav, 26 

Reventlow, Countess Franziska, 28 

Rilke, Clara, 16, 18, 22, 30, 35, 36, 37, 

39, 40, 42, 45, 46, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 

71, 72, 75, 78, 80, 83, 84, 85, 86, 88, 89, 

91, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 102, 104, 105, 

109, 1 10, III, 112, 113, 114, 115, 122, 

123, 124, 125, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 

! 34. 135. *37 138, 139. MO. 14*. *44. 
146, 151, 152, 153, 154, 156, 157, 158, 
159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 166, 169, 171, 

*7 2 73. 174. '75* 17 6 177. 17 8 *79. 
180, 181, 182, 184, 185, 186, 187, 189, 
190, 191, 193, 194, 195, 196, 198 
Rodin, Auguste, 34, 38, 106, 198, 199 

Schellenberg, Ernst Ludwig, 167 
Schenck zu Schweinsberg, Baroness 

Elisabeth, 196, 207 
Schill, Sofia Nikolaevna, 12, 13, 15 
Schobloch, Frau Rosa, 197 
Schwerin, Countess Luise, 82, 87 
Solms-Laubach, Countess Manon zu, 


Uexkiill, Baroness Gudrun, 108, 119, 

136, 148 
Uexkiill, Baron Jakob, 204 

W., Herr von, 183 
Weinmann, Frau Julie, 31 
Westhoff , Clara, see Rilke, Qara 
Westhoff, Friedrich, 62 
Westhoff, Helmuth, 25 
Wildberg, H, von Dickinson, 4, 5 

Young Girl, to a, 79 

Zech, Paul, 168 
Zickel, Dr. Martin, 165 
Zwintscher, Oskar, 29